Chatham County increasing awareness for emergency vehicles in traffic

Chatham County increasing awareness for emergency vehicles in traffic
Updated: Feb. 23, 2018 at 6:46 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Driving lights and sirens on busy roads present a number of dangers for first responders, especially if drivers around them aren't paying attention.

A crash involving an ambulance in Savannah Thursday night demonstrates the lack of attention many drivers give to those first responders.

We do know the driver of the SUV who hit the ambulance was cited by police, and it's just the latest example of how dangerous driving lights and sirens can be, even if they do everything in their power to be visible to other drivers.

Distractions are ever present, and ambulance drivers with Chatham Emergency Services are trained to anticipate the movement of traffic as they approach a busy intersection.

"We have to make eye contact with those that are driving, make sure that they see us, they have stopped, and just because the first lane of traffic has stopped doesn't mean the other lanes have stopped. So, we have to methodically clear each lane before we progress through that intersection," said Chatham Emergency Services Assistant Chief Benji Cowart.

Even clearing the intersection doesn't guarantee a crash like we saw Thursday night won't happen.

"We obviously don't want accidents, but in the event that we have them, I want to make sure my people, as well as those that have hit us, are taken care of," Cowart said.

In an effort to make their presence known even sooner, Chatham Emergency Services is equipping their new rigs with a howler siren that creates sound and a vibration. Cowart said even if other drivers see and hear their ambulances coming, they don't always know what to do.

"Maybe not knowing what to do, as far as yielding to the right to all emergency response vehicles," he said.

Chatham Emergency Services is looking to plan several social media campaigns - one of those to educate the public on what they need to do if they see an emergency vehicle coming towards them with lights and sirens.

By law, drivers in Georgia are required to move over when an emergency vehicle is approaching with lights or when one is stopped on the side of the road. If it is impossible for you to change lanes safely, you should slow down.

This law is in place to protect first responders. The law also applies to tow trucks stopped on the side of the road.

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