Special Report ; Ambulance Ambush - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Special Report ; Ambulance Ambush

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By Ben Roberts - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – When Dougherty County paramedic Robby Head responds to a call, he never knows exactly what he'll see. 

"There's a lot going on in your mind," Head said. But he does know on every call, he'll have to fight his way through traffic.  "People are dying if we've gotta slow down." 

Paramedics tell us they constantly come across drivers doing absolutely the wrong thing. "People talking on their cell phones, people moving to the left, people not stopping at all for us," Head said.

At one point, we saw a driver turn in front of an emergency vehicle at an intersection then move from the right lane, where he should've stayed, to the left lane.  We also saw a truck keep going long after he should've pulled over then stop in front of the ambulance. "We have people stop right in front of us. Will not get out of the way at all," Head said.

The consequences can be deadly. In December, a Douglas County paramedic who had a wife and a 4-year-old little girl back home was killed and his partner was critically injured when a car turned right into their ambulance even though the lights were flashing and the sirens were blaring. The ambulance rolled three times.

But of course, inattentive drivers put more than just paramedics and other people on the road in peril. "It can mean the difference between a person's life," said EMS Supervisor Sam Allen. 

It may sound cliché, but every second really does count on an emergency call. "If you have somebody that is dying, they're in a critical situation, we're responding, if we're involved in an accident, you've just taken this truck out of service. Your next truck might be on the other side of town," Allen said.

Thankfully, crashes are rare, but delays because paramedics constantly have to slow down and maneuver around bad drivers who don't seem to notice the big, loud, trucks with all the flashing lights, well those are common. "We don't understand why people do not see it," Head said.

Here's what paramedics want you to do. First, turn the music down a few decibels. Definitely, put the cell phone away, and remember what your old driver's ed teacher told you: Check your mirrors often, and just pay attention.

The rule of what to do when you seen an ambulance, fire truck, or police car is pretty simple. "You need to pull to the right. You need to stop when you see emergency vehicles coming," said Head.

Intersections are the most dangerous. Head said, "This is where everything gets real confusing." It's Dougherty County EMS policy to make sure an intersection is completely clear before going through. You can make that easier for them. "If they just stop like they're doing here, this is the best thing for us."

What's bad? We saw a pick-up truck pull into the turn lane and blocking the ambulance's only way through. Paramedics take advanced driving classes to learn how to avoid collisions, but you should remember these big trucks aren't very maneuverable, so you don't want to get in their way. 

"You take a heavy duty truck and try to stop it from a fast speed, you don't have much room to play with. They don't swerve and sway like a small sports car," Allen said.

Dougherty County ambulances are decked out with extra lights and three different sirens to make them as visible as possible and as safe as possible for paramedics, motorists, and patients. "We want to go home at then end of a shift. We don't want to get hurt. We don't want to hurt anybody, and we want to get to the patient safely."

You can help make that happen by paying attention, pulling to the right, and avoiding an Ambulance Ambush.


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