Many drivers don’t move over for emergency vehicles due to new vehicle features, distracted driving

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:20 PM CDT
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - It’s a business where every second counts, however, local first responders say getting to where they are called is taking longer.

“Sometimes people just don’t hear us or see us, and when they do it kind of makes them jerk off to the side if they move at all,” Curt Weible, a paramedic with Sanford Ambulance explained.

“It happens pretty much every day,” Wesley Booth, West Fargo Police’s Traffic Enforcement Officer said.

Experts say newer vehicles are built to silence the noise of the outside world, and on top of distracted driving, local first responders say often times their loud and bright presence still takes drivers by surprise.

“We were going to a call the other day and we were behind one car for quite a while. Everybody else in front of it moved over and then she ended up stopping at the red light so we were pretty much boxed in,” West Fargo Batallion Chief Joey Porter said. “Few honks of the airhorn and she figured it out that we were behind her.”

“It can certainly be frustrating and lengthen response times if there’s no way to get around a vehicle that’s not moving out of the way,” Officer Booth said. “Seconds matter.”

To battle the issue, officials say most emergency vehicles are equipped with dual sirens to help drivers hear at different frequencies.

“We also have a thumper device in some which is a really low tone. If we turn that on it kind of rumbles behind you,” Weible said.

West Fargo Fire says its new trucks have a system that sends signals to vehicles to alert that an emergency vehicle is near and to move over.

“Last month we sent out 658 signals. Year to date, it’s about 1200 that the trucks have sent out to alert people that a truck is coming,” Porter said.

While local emergency workers say you should always pull over to the right, if you have no other options, you can pull over to the left to let an emergency vehicle get around you.

“When people start stopping in the middle of the road or yielding to the left, you’re creating, in my opinion, a greater hazard to yourself, me and my crew, and a patient if we have them on board,” Weible said.

At the end of the day, first responders say the problem is an easy fix, but it comes down to you. They ask drivers to be a more alert and proactive for those in crisis who can’t afford to lose a second.

In North Dakota, failing to yield for an emergency vehicle is a $100 fine.