by Russell Judd
In an emergency, minutes may seem like hours and can mean the difference between life and death. Critical seconds can be lost if drivers don't make way for emergency vehicles when their sirens are signaling them to get out of the way!
Whenever you're traveling down the road and hear a warning siren, make way for the ambulance, fire truck or police vehicle by pulling to the far right. Someday, you may be the one calling for help, or the life on the line might be a friend, neighbor or someone you love.
The United States Department of Transportation, as part of their "Let Them Through, It Could Be you" program, suggests that you use the letters S-I-R-E-N to remember the correct way to yield to an emergency vehicle:
- S: Stay alert -- Drive defensively, keep the radio or noise level down in your car and look for more than one emergency vehicle approaching when you hear a siren.
- I: Investigate -- Check you rear-view mirror, scan in front and on both sides of your vehicle, try to estimate the closing speed of the emergency vehicle and plan your next move.
- R: React -- React quickly, but calmly and scan in all directions before pulling over. Always use a turn signal when exiting the roadway, and don't slam on the brakes or pull over suddenly.
- E: Before re-entering the road, make a visual sweep in all directions, turn on your signal, and gradually merge back into traffic.
- N: Never stop at a place that doesn't have enough room to pull over safely and never follow or try to outrun an emergency vehicle.
D.O.T. also offers the following precautions:
- At intersections, be alert for pedestrians who may be in the crosswalk or at the edge of the roadway. They might be looking for the emergency vehicle, too, and not be aware of your efforts to yield properly.
- On the highway, always use your signal so that other drivers know how you intend to exit the road, and look for other cars that may have to move across lanes of traffic to yield. Pull as far off the highway as safely as possible, and gradually brake to avoid losing control in loose gravel on the shoulder.
- As pedestrians, always check for turning vehicles before you step into the street because drivers may not see you. Be sure to stop at the curb, look left-right-left before crossing the street, and keep looking for vehicles. Do not cross in front of an emergency vehicle that may be stopped at a busy intersection; wait for the vehicle to pass.
- As bicyclists, always wear a helmet on every ride and equip your bicycle with reflectors on the front and rear. Bicyclists must obey traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles. Ride single file and on the right side of the road with traffic. When an emergency vehicle is approaching, pull as far to the right as possible. Do not cross in front of an emergency vehicle that may be stopped at a busy intersection. Wait for the vehicle to pass.
Not every emergency response requires lights and sirens, but the next time you see such a situation, follow these steps to insure safe transportation for you, the EMS personnel, and most importantly, their passengers.