Distracted driving becoming a growing threat to first responders, local personnel weighs in

Published: Jun. 7, 2019 at 3:45 PM CDT
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The people who keep you safe are falling victim to an old nemesis, distracted driving. New research shows those of you who text or check your social media feeds while behind the wheel are becoming an increasing threat to first responders. In fact, the research says 40 first responders were killed on the side of the road last year. That's a 60% jump from the year before. But we learned these emergency personnel are changing with the times to stay safe while taking care of you.

A close call caught on a Minnesota road and another one in Florida, more than just a false alarm. An officer injured after getting hit on the side of the road.

This used to be Bob Klein’s biggest fear.

"As cars are going by, I can just feel the ambulance just kind of move every time a car goes by," says F-M Ambulance Paramedic Instructor, Bob Klein.

He works with F-M Ambulance and has been in the field for around a decade. Hes watched how drivers have evolved through the years and how their attention has shifted.

"From when I started to now, its been a huge increase in safety training," says Klein.

And that's why he teaches emergency vehicle driver training. Klein tells us they go over everything, from backing up the emergency vehicles, turning around in close quarters and of course, how to park safely on the side of the road.

"There'll be a vehicle in the front of the scene. There’ll be a vehicle behind the scene. Then, hopefully there's enough vehicles out there that we can be in the middle of the scene so to speak, so we're protected from the front and the rear," says Klein.

Protected from what research says is becoming a growing hazard for first responders like Klein. This study reveals 16% of drivers say they've hit or nearly crashed into an emergency vehicle or first responder on the side of the road.

And if you think this is only a problem on busy interstates where speeds run high, think again.

"You could easily be hit on a residential area loading up the back of the ambulance," says Klein.

So Klein has a reminder for all of you tonight before the next time you get behind the wheel.

"Just be mindful and respectful," says Klein.

That way people like him, can keep helping you.

We called around to some law enforcement agencies in the F-M area. They tell us this is a concern that's always on their minds but they too take extra precautions to avoid any accidents.

Also if you ever get in an accident, officers urge you to pull into a nearby parking lot instead of staying on the busy road. And a friendly reminder, all 50 states have a ‘move-over’ law requiring drivers to give first responders room to work.

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