This has been a crazy two weeks for emergency workers trying to help others. First, an EMSA unit was responding to a call of a respiratory distress, when a car ran a stop sign and hit the unit. Early Monday morning, a Tulsa police captain was driving on the Sand Springs Expressway when a driver cut him off and sent him spiraling down a deep embankment. Police say if he hadn't been able to call for help, it might've taken quite a while to find the wreckage, because it was so far off the road. And, on Tuesday, witnesses say a car pulled out in front of a fire truck on its way to respond to a car crash. The fire truck flipped over and three firefighters were hurt.
I've done hundreds of ride-alongs over the years with police officers, sheriff's deputies, troopers, EMSA paramedics and I see the same thing happen over and over again.
People freak out and don't know what to do when they hear a siren and see those emergency lights in their rearview mirror.
I have seen people just slam on their brakes right in the middle of the road. I have seen people swerve and stop on the wrong side. I have seen people try to race the emergency vehicle and others just ignore it and refuse to budge at all.
The correct thing to do when an emergency vehicle comes up behind you or next to or at an intersection, is pull to the right and stop.
It is so easy, but, emergency workers will tell you, driving with their lights and sirens on is one of the most dangerous things they do, because people don't know how to respond.
I hear people criticize law enforcement officers sometimes for speeding without their lights and sirens on. They'll grumble that the officer is probably rushing to a dinner break. But, I know the truth. The truth is, many officers know they can get to the scene of an emergency much faster and safer without lights and sirens.
Remember, that emergency worker could be racing to save the life of someone you know or love. Give them plenty of space and respect. Give them the road. Remember, pull to the right and stop. These people are doing one of the most valuable jobs in our society, protecting and serving others in need. Their job is stressful and heart-breaking enough. They last thing they need is to worry about dying on the way to save someone else.