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Our View: Just pull over

Our View

Posted: July 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 24, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Our local saviors – firefighters, police and emergency-medical personnel — save lives in the Santa Clarita Valley every day.

They often risk life and limb while speeding to the aid of those in need because every second counts when lives are on the line.

That’s exactly why you need to give them a wide berth while on the road.

Far too often, drivers are insulated from the wailing sirens coming down the road because of phone conversations, loud stereos or various in-car distractions, and it leads to dangerous situations when fire engines are approaching.

It’s “a pretty big issue” that local firefighters deal with often, said Capt. Jeff Horwedel, of local Fire Station 126. And the issue is often exacerbated in the warm summer months when more people are on the roads with their windows up and air-conditioning on.

California drivers are legally obligated to pull over to the right side of the road when an emergency vehicle is passing by while its siren is on.

To quote vehicle code section 21806:

Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle which is sounding a siren and which has at least one lighted lamp exhibiting red light that is visible, under normal atmospheric conditions, from a distance of 1,000 feet to the front of the vehicle, the surrounding traffic shall, except as otherwise directed by a traffic officer, do the following:

(a) (1) Except as required under paragraph (2), the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, clear of any intersection, and thereupon shall stop and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed. … (b) The operator of every street car shall immediately stop the street car, clear of any intersection, and remain stopped until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed. (c) All pedestrians upon the highway shall proceed to the nearest curb or place of safety and remain there until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.

Failure to yield will result in a minimum $100 fine on the first offense and a point on your license.

But from a strictly human perspective, what is so important that you can’t take mere seconds out of your day to move over for someone who’s on the way to save a life and/or keep a house from burning down?

Is working to make it to the left-turn lane worth delaying an ambulance on the way to a heart-attack victim? Is getting to a movie on time worthy of getting in the way of a fire engine that’s going to help children in a car crash?

Ignorance, apathy, complacency and driving competitiveness are not valid excuses for interfering with such an important task. By not giving emergency vehicles a clear path, you’re literally taking a chance with someone’s life.

“Remember that we’re trying our best to do whatever we can to help the public when they have an emergency, and any cooperation we can get from folks out there on the road makes it easier,” Horwedel said, a 34-year veteran of firefighting.
Just move out of the way, because if it were you or a loved one relying on a speedy response by emergency personnel, you’d want them to have a wide-open road.


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