We can’t help but notice while commuting to work or on the road to cover a story that many people aren’t yielding the right of way to emergency vehicles which race to help our neighbors. It’s a complaint we’ve heard from our fellow drivers as well as the men and women who dedicate their time to making our communities a safer and better place to live.
Whether on a congested road or one where traffic is flowing freely, not yielding to a fire truck, police car or ambulance with their lights flashing and sirens blaring could lead to firefighters not being able to rescue the occupants of a burning house or a heart attack victim not being saved.
For decades, the main rules have remained simple — slow down and pull to the right of the road parallel to the curb and stop when you see an emergency vehicle with its lights and siren on near the vicinity of your vehicle. Don’t merge back into traffic until all emergency vehicles have passed, unless a police officer if present tells you otherwise. Of course, rules suggest motorists keep clear of any intersection and not tailgate a fire truck in hopes of bypassing all the other drivers who are trying to merge back into traffic.
For years now, in New York state, drivers must also be mindful of emergency or hazard vehicles, such as tow trucks, that are parked, stopped or standing along the side of a road. Called the Move Over Law, drivers are required to slow down and move over a lane away from the vehicle if it’s safe to do so.
Of course, many people are familiar with the laws, and others may not necessarily be breaking them on purpose. Car cabins today are made to keep outside noise to a minimum, so it was no surprise to us when we learned that many local fire departments are using horns with a deeper bass feature so drivers can feel them in addition to hearing them — if they hear them.
Sometimes, it comes down to being more mindful while sharing the road with both other vehicles and the people in the big red-and-white trucks with lights flashing.
Not hearing these sirens can also be attributed to car stereos or from people enjoying their music with earbuds. There is also the case of drivers distracted with their cellphones or when texting, even though it’s illegal.
As the weather gets warmer, and more people will be out on the road trying to enjoy all the Island has to offer, we encourage our readers to reacquaint themselves with the rules of the road or pay closer attention to other vehicles. If you’re already well versed in the laws, have a conversation with others in your life, especially younger ones who are not as familiar with the rules.
The main goal is to make it easier for our emergency workers because if it were our house or life they were saving, or that of a loved one, we would want them to get to us as quickly as possible.