More responses to our article about emergency-response vehicles.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2003

RAY: More reader mail today about emergency vehicles and how to get people to shape up and get out of their way.

TOM: We've talked in previous columns about several innovative technologies that broadcast alert messages from ambulances through existing car radios. But here's another point of view:

Dear Tom and Ray:

Unfortunately, your excellent idea, Tom, of transmitting an emergency vehicle's siren through car radios will not work. Not because it is not technically feasible, but rather because the "I did not hear the siren" is a big lie. The very same day that your article was published, I was waiting at a red light in a very busy intersection near our largest hospital. An ambulance was approaching from behind me, lights flashing and siren blaring. Not one, but three vehicles -- two vans and one pickup truck -- were approaching the intersection on a green light. I could tell that each of those drivers saw the ambulance, because they hesitated momentarily before they gunned their engines and shot through the intersection in front of the ambulance. The third one almost got hit -- the ambulance driver had to slam on his brakes to avoid the jerk. "I did not hear the siren!" Sure, and "the check is in the mail." Ha, ha, ha! More likely, "I want to make that green light, or else I might be late for lunch." -- Miklos

RAY: So, maybe good old-fashioned enforcement is what we need: the law-enforcement equivalent of my mother's famous dope slap.

TOM: Here's one more from the front lines:

Dear Tom and Ray:

We see people every day watching our trucks running Code 3 (lights and siren) and simply ignoring them. The other day in front of the fire station, we had a person change lanes and stay in front of the truck to get through the light before finally yielding. Right after 9-11, we saw a great improvement. We found that many people were yielding and waiting for us to pass. But unfortunately, people seem to have already forgotten that lesson -- the price that is paid by emergency personnel who arrive late to a fire or disaster. People have gone back to thinking that our getting to an emergency is less important than their getting to some event or to work. We have noticed such a high level of infractions that we have put a video camera in the front of the truck to capture evidence of this thoughtless behavior, with the intent of producing a public-service announcement. We applaud you for your intent to inform people. What can they do? Well, my father keeps his window rolled down a bit so he can hear the siren. I have a friend who is deaf; he always yields to emergency vehicles. He keeps his eyes open and checks his mirrors. If he can do it in spite of his lack of hearing, certainly the rest of us can pay enough attention so that we know when to yield. Thanks for your support. -- Captain John Bostwick, Cedar Falls (Iowa) Fire Rescue

TOM: Why ANYONE is in a rush to get TO work, I'll never understand.

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