Are Drivers Jeopardizing Emergency Services?

By Troubleshooter Chris Coffey
|  Saturday, Oct 27, 2012  |  Updated 7:38 PM EDT
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They are the people who rush to help when you have an emergency. But Connecticut's first responders say distracted drivers are putting road blocks in their way.

Chris Coffey , Dan Lee

They are the people who rush to help when you have an emergency. But Connecticut's first responders say distracted drivers are putting road blocks in their way.

Connecticut first responders say they're running into a lot of road blocks on the way to emergency calls.  Not the construction kind, but the road blocks caused by distracted drivers.

State law requires drivers to give the right-of-way to emergency vehicles that are blasting sirens and flashing lights.  But firefighters say too many drivers are distracted or they simply freeze and do not know what to do.

"They get in the way.  They don't pull over.  Sometimes they'll panic and actually run the light in front of you," said fire engine driver David Lallier of the Waterbury Fire Department.

The Troubleshooters rode with firefighters in Waterbury and East Hartford over the course of two months to witness what fire crews are facing on the road.

Our cameras documented how some drivers don't get out of the way or hesitate when a fire truck appears in their rear view mirrors.

"They freeze.  They panic and they stop," said fire engine driver Clint Marth of the East Hartford Fire Department.  "They're not paying attention to what they should be and that's just driving their car."

Some cars appear to take their chances by zipping past oncoming fire engines.

Drivers are supposed to pull over to the right.

"Even if they just pulled over it would be great, but I would say 80% of the people don't even do that," Marth said.

While most drivers we saw obeyed the rules, fire crews say some cars they see simply take too long to make a decision at an intersection.  Drivers who block a responding fire truck or ambulance face up to a $500 fine.

Drivers stopped at an intersection who are about to make a left turn may not be able to pull over to the right.  However, drivers are still required to give emergency vehicles the right-of-way.

Drivers are also urged by firefighters to be aware that there may be another emergency vehicle directly behind the fire truck.

So the next time you hit the road, consider what fire crews are facing each time they turn on the siren.  Don't panic and don't freeze.  Know what do to.  Someone's life may hang in the balance.

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