( 2 Votes )

AmbulanceThe majority of drivers are aware of emergency vehicles winding their way through traffic because the sound and lights signal a matter of life and death. But some drivers are oblivious to the rules of the road when it comes to emergency vehicles.

Dr. Saami Shaibani, a teacher at Fluvanna’s Abrams Academy, physics professor and an expert in traffic safety in England and the U.S., has written numerous papers on trauma and injury and wants to raise awareness around emergency vehicle traffic safety. On his way to work or traveling around the county, he observed drivers not yielding when emergency vehicles were trying to get through traffic.

He gave an example of cars stopped at an intersection with a stoplight and an ambulance with flashing lights trying to maneuver through traffic. Surprisingly, not enough drivers were aware enough to yield right of way.

“The ambulance is behind another vehicle that is waiting at the light and does not move off to the side, and the ambulance has to go into the wrong lane to get through,” he said. “The ambulance will stop at the light to make sure everything is clear but I’ve seen drivers run through the intersection oblivious to the ambulance.”

Shaibani added that what often happens on these narrow winding roads is that the ambulance will get stuck behind a vehicle that cannot pull over. If the driver of that vehicle had waited, rather than getting ahead of the ambulance at the intersection, the ambulance would arrive at its destination faster.

The concern for the ambulance driver is that if a vehicle driver ignores the signals the ambulance driver is giving to get through the intersection safely and quickly, and if a crash does occur due to the vehicle driver not giving right of way, this delays the ambulance and ties up traffic, perhaps delaying other emergency vehicles from getting through as well. If that ambulance has to get to a cardiac victim, for example, time is essential and wasting it could be fatal.

Though most of the statistical data involving crashes and fatalities with emergency vehicles in Virginia and in most states throughout the U.S. is low, there is always one too many. Such crashes can be avoided. Shaibani’s goal is to educate the public, reducing any chance of it ever happening in Fluvanna and elsewhere.In Virginia, like most states, the law is explicit when it comes to emergency vehicles and right of way for yielding in traffic. While most drivers may pay attention and yield, Shaibani said he has seen too many instances in which they do not. Virginia law requires that drivers immediately drive to the nearest edge of the roadway, clear any intersections, and stop whenever an emergency vehicle with warning lights and sirens is approaching. The driver shall remain stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed and no other emergency equipment is in sight. The same common sense should be applied at four-way stops and roundabouts.

“Another time, an emergency vehicle was trying to get to a call and everyone moved to the side to clear a path for the ambulance, except one driver who was in front of the emergency vehicle and never moved. He was texting,” said Shaibani.

Drivers do not check rearview mirrors often enough, according to the state of Virginia, and it is difficult to hear an approaching siren with windows up and a radio or stereo on. It’s important to check your side and rearview mirrors every 10 seconds and always be alert to the possible presence of emergency vehicles around you. Virginia also likes to remind its drivers: “If you were in need of emergency help you wouldn’t want a thoughtless and careless driver delaying those en route to help you?”

Other factors include those who forget to put their hearing aids in or have ear buds in their ears or blue tooth on. Worst of all, as Shaibani witnessed, is when drivers do not pay attention at all to what is happening around them because they are texting.

These rules also apply to passing. Do not pass an ambulance when its lights are flashing, regardless of the speed at which it is traveling. And always stay at least 500 feet behind an emergency vehicle. Do not tail.
This is also the time to be aware that if you are behind an ambulance, other emergency vehicles could be behind you. What should you do?

“Pull over to the side of the road, pull into a side road or driveway, but get out of the way if possible, stop and wait until all emergency vehicles have passed,” said Shaibani. Drivers should keep in mind that for a moment of inconvenience they could be saving a life. Someday it may be their own.

For more information contact Shaibani at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .