It’s a sentiment that crops up from emergency responders on a regular basis — no matter what the law says, ordinary drivers often ignore emergency vehicles and endanger responders’ lives.
Here’s Brooklyn, N.S. fire Chief Andy McDade from the Jan. 5 Hants Journal: “The concern out there is the traffic that’s supposed to slow down and move over. … Nobody wanted to slow down and move over, even with the icy road conditions. It just seems like we’re an inconvenience to all the motorists out there.”
Here’s Come By Chance, N.L., fire Chief Duane Antle, talking to the CBC in September 2017: “The nightmare scenario for me is that I go to the highway and at the end of that call I’ve got to go knock on one of my firefighter’s doors and say that person is not coming home. You think about that for a second,” he said.
Inattention — and worse — put lives at risk.
“We had one individual almost went over and hit the guardrail because he was too busy holding up his cellphone trying to get a video of what we were doing,” Antle said. “You’ve got to realize that the people in that car that need our help, if we’ve got to stop what we’re doing because we’re being put in additional danger, then their help is slowed down. So there (are) a lot of reasons that seeing this upsets me.”
There have been move-over laws put in place in a number of jurisdictions, penalizing driver who put responders at risk.
The other option for dealing with dangerous driving around first responders involves closing roads — something that letter writer Adam Bell from Dartmouth raised concerns about in the Halifax Chronicle Herald last week, writing, in part: “What is the benefit of closing the road while accident investigators do their jobs, when weighed against the substantial disruption of ordinary commuter traffic and freight? Why does knowing the details of a single accident outweigh the convenience and schedules of hundreds of drivers who will be diverted?”
We could, of course, police ourselves and be careful and cautious on the road, especially around accident scenes. We could be patient and aware — though, last week’s major Atlantic storm shows that people can be ignorant of safety issues even when road conditions are horrible.
“It was a very challenging day responding,” fire Chief McDade said. “All of my drivers, on every call actually, made note of the inattentive drivers. They’re more paying attention to what’s in front of them.”
Perhaps that’s the way of the world: we’re too used to believing that our own personal concerns are more important than anything else.
Causing an unnecessary accident and unnecessary grief, all in order to save a few minutes on a commute to work, is a poor way to find that out.