Multiple choice test: You’re responding with lights and sirens to a MVA with reported entrapment when a car fails to properly yield. Do you:
A. Slow down.
B. Pass them when safe to do so.
C. Follow at a safe distance behind them if unable to pass.
D. Lay on the airhorn, tailgate the car, make a sharp right turn from the right lane to maintain position (drafting saves gas money), pass the car while giving the one finger salute, and cut the offending driver off while also running over the center median.
If you were an officer or operator for Orange County (Florida) Fire Rescue up until a couple of days ago, the answer would of course be D. To be fair, though, this entitlement attitude towards the roads when using lights and sirens is endemic to emergency services, not just the fire service nor just to Orange County Fire Rescue. The drive cam footage could just as easily been from a drive cam in an ambulance and filming two EMS providers. Regardless, there’s a few important points to take away.
1. Just because the civilian isn’t doing what they are supposed to doesn’t mean that you are absolved from doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
2. Lights and sirens are a reason to drive more defensively, not more aggressively. If an action isn’t safe while driving your personal vehicle (note: “safe/unsafe” is not the same as “legal/illegal”), it’s not safe when driving an emergency vehicle. Yes, lights and sirens exempts you from stopping at a red light until it turns green (legal vs illegal action). They do not allow you to ignore the vehicles who are passing through the intersection (safe vs unsafe action).
3. No amount of time saved makes up for being in an accident. Sure, the car in front of the engine should have stopped when they pulled into the turn lane. They didn’t. Now let’s assume for a second that the person trapped in the MVA was critical and time sensitive (I honestly don’t know what the status of patient was). Does it make sense to get into an accident along the way because the operator had to show the other car just how right the emergency vehicle is? Does it make sense to get into an accident along the way because you were tailgating the car that wouldn’t pull over? What’s your response time when you never actually make it to the scene?
Worth reviewing: Ambulance Driving Tricks and Tips