Jason Dougherty

Motorists urged to give way in an emergency

WHEN you hear sirens and see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, it can only mean two things: either you're in trouble or someone else is.

Either way, emergency services officers urge drivers not to panic when they see blue and red lights approaching. The wrong response could put lives on the road at risk, as well as those of the people waiting for the service.

Queensland Ambulance Service Sunshine Coast assistant commissioner Chris Broomfield said motorists often did not know how to react around emergency vehicles.

SOUND ADVICE: Chris Broomfield.
SOUND ADVICE: Chris Broomfield.

He said precious time was wasted by motorists being oblivious to an ambulance trying to pass them.

"People need to pay attention while they are driving - and use their mirrors," Mr Broomfield said. "What we ask all drivers to do is to stay alert on the road."

Mr Broomfield said motorists sometimes had a tendency to panic when they heard the sirens and see the lights.

"Being slowed up in traffic because of people not moving safely out of the way can mean life or death to a patient," he said.

"From a heart attack to a child drowning - seconds count, minutes count - the quicker we get there the better outcome is for the patient.

"If we can get some more understanding and courtesy from road users it would assist us doing our job."

Mr Broomfield said: "My belief is people don't do it purposely - they are just not aware of what is happening around them."

Queensland Fire and Emergency Service station officer Ash Dickson said firies encountered the same problems that paramedics did.

Mr Dickson, based at Maroochydore Fire Station, said motorists were often unaware of approaching emergency services vehicles.

"People have problems hearing sirens because of inattention or because they might have their music loud," he said.

"If they don't hear us coming and we just appear suddenly behind them, they can get panicked and not make good decisions."

Mr Broomfield said the correct procedure when an emergency vehicle was approaching was to slow down and move the vehicle to the left, when it was safe to do so, or stay left to give the ambulance a clear run down the middle of the road.

He said paramedics didn't want drivers creating dangerous situations by moving suddenly or making an illegal manoeuvre.

According to Queensland road rules, motorists "may drive onto the wrong side of the road or drive through a red traffic light to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle if it is safe to do so".

But the Queensland Ambulance Services advises against it.

Mr Broomfield said if a driver ran a red light to make clear passage for an emergency vehicle and had an accident, it would mean the paramedics would be delayed and would be faced with another incident to deal with.

"The key thing to remember is, don't panic. Just try to move safely to the left if you can," he said.

Helpful tips

  • Do not panic.
  • Slow down (but do not break rapidly).
  • Use your indicators.
  • Be aware of other motorists.
  • Do not move suddenly or move into the path of the emergency vehicle.
  • Move as far to the left of the road as you can and come to a stop.
  • If you cannot move out of the path safely, stay where you are and let the emergency vehicle drive around you.

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