It is easy to get stressed in traffic, most especially when your destination is a matter of life and death. Oklahoma City firefighters say they are constantly frustrated by drivers who refuse to move over, and the problem continues to grow.
For first responders, every second counts on the way to an emergency, but every day they are faced with obstacles in their path. Driving around in a big red engine with lights flashing and sirens blaring often does not scream move out of the way like you might think.
“If we go through about five or six intersections, in at least two we’re going to have to jump the median because people just don’t know what to do,” said Major Lance Burnett.
State law requires you to move over for emergency vehicles, but firefighters find that people do not even notice them until it is too late. Then they panic and freeze.
“There’s so many different distractions going on, on the road today,” Burnett said. “Cell phones is a big issue, but also radios and then the noise level within the car is so low that often times they don’t hear us or don’t see us until we get right up on them.”
When you do see them in your rear view, firefighters want you to find a way to move right, even if you have to go through a red light. They say cross traffic will eventually stop as the engine approaches, but pay attention as you pull over.
“If you park in front of a driveway or park in front of an intersection just to stop, that may be the intersection or driveway we’re trying to enter,” explained Burnett.
There is only one time you should actually move left for emergency vehicles. That is when they, themselves, are stopped on the right side of the road.
Burnett said, “There’s a lot of times you may see police officers helping someone change a tire or fire crews on the side of the road, so that’s just a safety barrier for us.”
The bottom line is awareness. Be on the lookout for flashing lights, and be prepared to move to the right.