I encountered a video recently of a family crossing the street in front of an emergency vehicle with its lights and sirens operating. There are several interesting points to the video. One is the audible exasperation of the citizen filming the scene. We encounter these situations so often in the course of our work that we often forget how ridiculous they sometimes look to the uninitiated.
The second interesting point is that, after the emergency vehicle stops (to avoid running over the family) a person still waiting on the sidewalk decides it must be OK for him to walk in front of the ambulance as well. We see this behavior frequently. Once one person decides to disregard the ambulance, it gives silent permission to others to do the same. It’s another form of the litter begets litter phenomenon. One person does the right thing and others tend to do the same. One person does the wrong thing and, well… get ready to pick up some littler.
Take a minute to watch the video and then I’d like to make a point.
ParamedicTV is powered by EMS1.com
For those of us who operate emergency vehicles, I think the big take home of this video is to always request the right-of-way; don’t demand it. Our lights and sirens only afford us the ability to request that others yield. They don’t give us the right to demand that others avoid us.
For what it’s worth, this medic does a pretty good job of slowing down and stopping for the family. He doesn’t blare his air horn (though it must have been tempting). He doesn’t make any erratic moves to get around the family (which may have endangered the citizen on the sidewalk). He doesn’t yell or make gestures out the window. He yields and then he proceed. (Excuse me for assuming gender.)
He requested the right of way and the citizen said no. Then he moves on. There’s no need to get self-righteous about it. If a law enforcement officer is present, they may be cited, but that isn’t our job.
Let me put it another way. When operating with our lights and sirens on, we are never permitted to drive in a manner that requires the other vehicle or person to respond ideally. It can be frustrating from the front seat of the emergency vehicle, but we have to leave people the option to safely do the wrong thing. If the citizen does the wrong thing and we hit them, we are (most likely) at fault. It’s our job to keep the public safe even from the front seat of our medic unit.