Officers Brake Unyielding Motorists


If you don't yield to emergency vehicles, you could get a ticket.

The Payson Police Department is cracking down on drivers who don't pull over and allow emergency vehicles to pass.


Payson Fire Department Engineer Gary Lamken rushes to climb behind the wheel of engine EP 121. In an emergency, a few seconds can mean life or death. Response teams often face delays when motorists fail to yield to emergency vehicles. Payson police warn they will issue citations to drivers who don't pull over for sirens.

"We have had to write a few citations lately to motorists who don't move over to let emergency vehicles through," Payson Police Commander Don Engler said.

Engler said he wants to remind drivers that it is against the law not to yield to emergency vehicles on their way to a call.

According to Engler, while more drivers have been issued tickets lately, this is by no means a new problem.

"There is not an officer in this department who doesn't have a horror story to tell -- a time when they were operating in an emergency response mode when a motorist had either not seen them or done something to cause them to have to take evasive action. Most officers at one time have had to pull up on the curb or the sidewalk on the left-hand side of the road before because of driver inattention. It's a dangerous situation for them and emergency vehicles."

Arizona law instructs motorists to drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge of the roadway clear of any intersection.

After pulling over to the right hand side of the road, Engler said drivers need to listen for additional emergency vehicles.

"The most important thing is for a person to check their right side in their rear view mirror and safely pull over as far to the right as possible and stop," Engler said. "Stay stopped until that emergency vehicle has passed and is at least 500 feet ahead of them -- the law says motorists are not to follow an emergency vehicle at a distance closer than 500 feet."

Fire trucks flatten

Payson Police Officer Mike Varga said moving out of the way is especially important with fire engines.

"When a fire truck hits another car -- it's not a pretty sight" Varga said. "I have seen a Tucson ladder truck flatten another car -- it just rolled over it. People are not getting out of the way of these trucks. I will follow the fire trucks when they are running, looking for people who don't pull over."

"Please, don't slam on the brakes," Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi said. "A 30,000-pound truck doesn't stop on a dime."

DeMasi said his staff is trained to drive defensively and carefully when responding to emergencies, but they do appreciate drivers who pull over to the right side of the road.

"It's frustrating and it is dangerous for us and the public when people don't yield to emergency vehicles," said deMasi.

Payson Fire Department Engineer Gary Lamken said one of the most dangerous things people do is pull in front of an approaching fire truck because they don't want to wait. "People try to beat the truck," Lamken said. "They see us coming and they want to turn into a business and they turn in front of us." Lamken, who drives Payson's newest fire truck EP 121, wants people to remember they have a critical incident response time -- and the difference of a few seconds could mean life and death. "From the time of dispatch, we try to make it within four minutes in town. Please, pull over to the right," Lamken said.


Motorists stuck at intersections or unable to move to the right side of the road should stay put, Engler said.

Emergency vehicles have an instrument called an Opticom, which is hooked up to the flashing lights.

"Opticoms are activated when the light bars on patrol cars go on and automatically turn a light green in the direction the car is going," Engler said.

Stay alert and remember that it could be you in need of emergency services, Payson Police Sgt. Rod Mamero said.

"It's important that people realize when they are driving around with their windows rolled up and stereos and heaters going, that they still have the responsibility of looking out for emergency vehicles," Mamero said. "We are doing everything we can do by using our sirens and lights. We could very well be on the way to your house or a family member's house."

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