Don’t tailgate the ambulance

Photo for illustrative purposes. (Photo: Pixabay)

Responding to any emergency is extremely stressful for paramedics.

They are constantly bombarded with a loud sirens and adrenaline pumping through their veins. They have to keep in mind their own safety, as well as the safety of their crew, their patient(s) and the people around them. They also need to know exactly what their vehicle is capable of in different driving conditions. It is not just a matter of getting into the vehicle, switching on the emergency lights and siren, and off they go. The last thing paramedics need is to consider a vehicle tailgating them.

Also read: Essential first-aid supplies when travelling

ER24 urges all motorists to be patient and wait when they hear or see an ambulance approaching. The following should illustrate why other drivers should not tailgate an ambulance:

“We had a patient with serious injuries in the back of the ambulance. We were attempting to go through an intersection to get her to hospital as quickly as possible. We were driving through when a gentleman cut us off completely. We stopped to let him go, thinking that he might not have seen us. We carried on driving behind him and he pulled over to let us pass. Then he started following us, through the centre of the two lanes. We carried on and slowed down as vehicles came towards us. The vehicle behind almost rear-ended us. I’ve been in a collision under similar circumstances before,” said Kerry Gamble, an Intermediate Life Support (ILS) paramedic at ER24’s Johannesburg North branch.

According to Gamble, this happens often.

“I think initially our driving through intersections is a bit of an inconvenience for motorists, especially if they have to wait while the traffic light is green for them. I do think some regard it as a way to skip traffic or to get where they are going faster. Some don’t understand that they are putting our lives, the lives of our patient(s) and their own lives at risk.”

These collisions also take away resources, resulting in fewer ambulances to respond to emergencies.

“When tailgating vehicles crash into an ambulance, it becomes non-operational. These types of crashes can delay or even prevent us from getting to the scene and providing the necessary help. The whole incident snowballs as we have to stop, assess for injuries, take statements and details, call a local manager and in some cases, have the vehicle towed. All of this results in traffic congestion and may lead to a secondary collision,” said Gamble.

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Werner Vermaak, ER24 Head of Communications and an advanced driving course instructor, explained that most paramedics are skilled in driving but it does not mean one has to make their job harder than it already is.

“ER24 operations personnel are required to undergo a driving test prior to being employed at the company. The company also has its own BERC programme (Basic Emergency Response Course) which is offered in-service. It is essential to teach personnel to respond to emergencies and to keep their surroundings in mind. Often new employees come from a service that used different vehicles or they come straight from university or college and have not received much emergency-response training. Our BERC course teaches the basics and how to operate emergency vehicles in different scenarios,’ said Werner.

What to do when you see an ambulance en route to an emergency:

• Don’t panic

• Give way

• Constantly check your rear-view/ side mirrors

• Don’t tailgate

• Be patient

• Check before you cross an intersection, even if the light is green for you to go

• Do not blindly move in a direction or slam on brakes

• Observe your surroundings; paramedics do too

• Do not play excessively loud music – this will hamper your hearing the siren. When you hear a siren, try and determine where it is coming from and act accordingly

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected] (remember to include your contact details) or phone us on 011 955 1130.

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Randfontein Herald

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  AUTHOR
Riaan van Zyl
Journalist

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