What can be done about cars who don't yield to emergency vehicles?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

My name is Greg, and I work as an emergency medical technician. I'm writing to you about something that has become nearly pandemic -- people failing to hear our sirens or notice our lights because they are on cell phones, or are driving Luxomobiles (Lexus, BMW, insert other high-cost make here) whose sound insulation saves them from everything save possibly the voice of the Almighty Himself, and even then likely only if emanating from within 12 inches of the driver. This is a very dangerous trend. We are trained to get patients from point A to hospital B as quickly and as safely as possible. What we are finding is that fewer and fewer people are yielding to emergency vehicles, which causes us significant delays in transporting critical patients. It also places emergency vehicles at a higher risk of being in an accident. A friend of mine was killed a few months ago because a family traveling to a movie was not able to hear him coming. Just a couple of weeks ago, an ambulance flipped over on a local highway because someone failed to yield in time for the crew to spot a vehicle broken down in the lane they were traveling in. Today I missed a Volvo by "this much" because he merged in front of me after failing to hear my siren as I was taking a very ill individual to an ER. This is unacceptable, and it will likely happen more often if the current trend continues.

An ambulance weighs, on average, 17,000 pounds -- eight and one-half tons -- and cannot stop on a dime. So I write to you, O Overseers of Vehicular Truth, to ask you if you might let people know that they need to be more aware of their surroundings. I understand that people want to "escape" in their vehicles and want to chat with their friends on the phone, but what about the welfare of the people inside the ambulances who need critical care? And what about the people waiting for fire trucks and police officers to arrive with help? What can we do? -- Greg, Massachusetts EMT-B

TOM: I don't know what to suggest, Greg. I've seen the problem, too, and it's frustrating.

RAY: There's no excuse for not yielding for an emergency vehicle. It could be your husband, wife, parent, child or neighbor in that ambulance. If not this time, next time.

TOM: I know my ideas won't fly. I'd suggest a plow. Or a transmitter, so you can broadcast your siren through the sound systems of cars within a hundred feet of you. That ought to wake 'em up, eh? Anyone have any other ideas?

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