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This afternoon as I ran my errands, I was stopped at a red light for several minutes. A police car came racing through the intersection, cut across traffic, and pulled up to the curb just outside my window. I looked over and saw a man lying on the grass in front of the business on the corner. The officer shook him, and shook him, and got no response. Chills raced down my arms as I thought, "That man is dead." The officer grabbed the radio off his shoulder and spoke into it, then continued to shake the man on the ground.
From the left, an ambulance pulled up, and another police car as well. Across the intersection, a fire truck came to a stop, unable to cross because of the thick lines of traffic in his way. He laid on his horn and finally was able to cross when the drivers of the cars finally realized that flashing lights, plus a siren, plus a horn, means that something's up.
The man on the ground at last sat up. I took a deep breath of relief, and I'm sure the original officer did, too. At that moment, my light turned and I drove away, so glad that I'd seen that the man was alive before I had to go.
But then my frustration turned to the traffic. It is the law that when you see a police car, fire truck, ambulance, what-have-you, and they displaying their flashing lights, you get out of their way. Obviously, if the sirens are on, you really, really get out of their way. You pull over if you can. You don't go into an intersection if you see an emergency vehicle rushing through it. You always give them the right of way, you let them pass, you do whatever it takes to make sure they get where they are going without delay.
I have seen drivers refuse to pull out of the way of emergency vehicles. I have seen cars zoom in front, feeling that they could get out of the way by just going faster. One day, I was stopped at an intersection when a fire truck came through. The light had been changed to red in all four directions so the truck wouldn't have competition for the road. We all waited, able to hear the siren, knowing the truck was on its way. But then a car from one side of the intersection decided it could make it if it just zoomed on through. It darted out right in front of the fire truck, which had to hit its brakes to avoid a collision. If that crash had taken place, the driver of that car would have kept the firefighters from getting to their destination. Sure, another truck could have been dispatched, but how long would it have taken?
When you're having a heart attack, and you're in terrible pain, you need to know that your call to 9-1-1 was heard and that you will be helped. If you're trapped behind your steering wheel after a bad crash, if someone is breaking into your house, if you just pulled all your children out of their beds and you're huddled on your lawn, watching your house go up in flames, you pray that help is on the way. You need to know that you will be rescued. You need to know that someone is coming who can help you and even save your life. Every second feels like an eternity to you.
If you are one of those drivers who refuses to pull over, you're not only breaking the law, you are guilty of one of the biggest acts of disrespect I can name. Someone is waiting for that fire truck you're blocking. Someone is waiting for that police officer you just cut off. That ambulance that had to honk you out of the way was carrying life-saving supplies to someone whose very survival depended on help's quick arrival. I'm sorry if you're five minutes late to your hair appointment, or if your boss will be mad if you punch in late. I'm sorry if you need to grab some salad to go with dinner and your in-laws will be at your house any minute. Yes, you're in a hurry, but no emergency of yours is as great as the emergency faced by those men and women in uniform who are hurrying to the scene. The slight delay you cause them could mean the difference between life and death for someone.
I urge all of you, regardless of your current level of awareness, to become even more aware. When you see an emergency response vehicle, do a double-take and see if their lights are on, or if they're just going from one place to another. Be mindful that they could get a call on their radios at any time and could go from tooling along down the road to flipping into high gear and needing you out of the way immediately. If you're driving in front of them, keep them in your rearview mirror so you'll know right away if they need you to move. If you see a police officer parked along the side of the road, give the car a wide berth, going out into the median if necessary. Officers get struck and killed by cars zooming by while they are entering or exiting their vehicles, sometimes on very routine calls that should never have cost them their lives.
Selfishness has no place in driving, and it certainly has no place on the same road as emergency vehicles. If you were the person who placed a 9-1-1 call, you've be praying that help arrived immediately and didn't get caught in traffic. Show the same courtesy to others. It's the law, and it's the right thing to do. - Tristi Pinkston