EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Effingham County Sheriff's Office has an important reminder that they hope hits home for all drivers.
WTOC talked to deputies Tuesday about the importance is getting over and yielding to emergency vehicles responding to calls, and how it can make the difference between life and death.
On an average day, Effingham County sheriff's deputies flip a switch two or three times a day to turn on lights and sirens while responding to an emergency.
"To be honest with you, almost every time I turn the lights and sirens on there's a close call because of someone not yielding the proper way, or they'll start one way and then come back the other way," said Effingham County Sheriff's Deputy, Loren Scholes.
A driving instructor for the sheriff's office, Scholes said they train for the sometimes unpredictable nature of other drivers on the road.
Deputy Scholes pointed out a vehicle not yielding properly and said, "See like this guy right here, he's in such a hurry to get to his house he doesn't care what emergency I'm responding to."
It's other drivers not yielding right and stopping for these first responders, or slowing and getting over while they're stopped on the side of the road that's the number one killer of law enforcement.
"The number one killer of law enforcement in this country is car crashes. It's not the sexy things you see on TV, a shootout with the bad guys, it's not saving kids in fires, that's not what kills us. What kills us is car crashes, and statistically, those car crashes are not our fault," Scholes said.
Scholes said drivers can do simple things to be more aware and ready for emergency vehicles responding to a call. Something as simple as glancing in the rearview mirror every three seconds would give any driver plenty of time to react and safely get out of the way, possibly saving the officer precious seconds.
"Every moment that they delay us, they're delaying us from that emergency. Besides risking a crash, they're delaying us from that emergency."
Scholes says the addition of the new hands-free law could help cut down on those encounters, at least when it comes to distracted drivers.
"You may still be distracted by whatever you have going on on the phone, but at least your head is up and your eyes are looking outside the car, so that should decrease it, but the number one tell-tale for us, to see someone texting and driving, is they'll have their head down and they're looking into their lap because they're holding their phone so low that they don't want us to see it," Dep. Scholes said.
Not yielding to an approaching emergency vehicle with lights and sirens activated could get you a ticket, and not getting over for stopped emergency vehicles on the side of the road could result in a fine of up to $500 in Georgia.
Georgia's new hands-free law will go into effect July 1.