SOUTHERN UTAH – When you see the flashing lights and hear the wail of a siren behind you, slow down and pull to the right.
It’s something nearly all of us learned in Driver’s Education, and it just might help save a life. But does the average driver really follow the rules and allow emergency vehicles room to pass? Three of Dixie’s finest share their experiences and some sage advice to keep drivers on their toes — not just for others’ safety, but also for their own.
According to Captain James Van Fleet of the St. George Police Department, the majority of citizens do pull over when it counts.
“Ambulance personnel have the right to call the police when they encounter drivers who don’t move out of the way, in which case we can issue that driver a citation. But that rarely happens here. We’ve had very few complaints,” Van Fleet said.
Motor vehicle accidents remain one of the leading causes of death in America, and a majority of these crashes are preventable with increased driver awareness.
“Distractions, like having the stereo or air conditioner on, often keep drivers from noticing emergency vehicles behind them,” said St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker. “Most people who don’t pull over are surprised to see us behind them. It is an issue, but it’s not that people don’t respect the laws.”
Dixie Ambulance manager Mike Miller advises our readers to stay sharp on the road.
“Check your mirrors frequently and listen [for sirens],” Miller said. “We train our operatives to approach intersections carefully, but there’s only so much they can do. If an emergency vehicle gets into an accident, no one is helped.”
Van Fleet said that when pulling over for an emergency vehicle, assume another one is also on the way.
“Once you’re aware that a police unit, fire truck, or ambulance is behind you, slow down and pull as far to the right as possible – never pull onto a sidewalk,” he said. “A good rule to follow is that if you see one, there are probably more on the way. That’s because multiple emergency vehicles often respond to the same scene right after one another. Wait for the first to pass by at least 300 yards before pulling back into traffic.”
“In my years of experience, I’ve seen plenty of rear-end collisions caused by lack of attention from drivers,” added Stoker. “Be aware of your surroundings, check your mirrors often, and always expect the unexpected.”