When a serious accident happens on the road, a swift response from rescue workers could mean the difference between life and death.
But the distracted driving that has increasingly become the cause of such accidents is now also contributing to a delay in the emergency response to them.
Ambulance drivers and other emergency response workers in Indiana have been speaking up about the problem, which they say is escalating.
More and more drivers simply aren’t paying enough attention to realize an ambulance, fire truck, police car, or other emergency vehicle is coming up behind them—to the point of even ignoring the vehicles’ blaring sirens and lights, according to members of the state’s West Lafayette Fire Stations No. 1 and 2.
And without noticing their surroundings, the drivers are increasingly failing to yield or pull over to make way for the rushing vehicles, considerably slowing down response time, the firefighters said.
The issue has become so dire that emergency drivers in West Lafayette have began keeping a video log of the incidents, which they call the “close calls” file.
Among the reams of clips showing cars failing to pull over, there is footage of cars speeding past fire trucks that have pulled to the side of the road, barely missing the firefighters standing near the vehicle, and one clip showing a vehicle even driving onto the sidewalk to get around a parked emergency vehicle.
According to the firefighters, incidents like this have become a daily occurrence. They’re urging drivers to pay extra close attention on the road, so as to avoid turning the response to one accident into another separate accident.
In Indiana, there’s also a financial incentive to avoid the practice – the ticket for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle can cost as much as $100, and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles can tack 8 points onto a license for a charge, which will surely lead to a more expensive car insurance policy.
With the rise of smartphones, distracted driving has become an increasing problem across the nation. It was deemed responsible for the deaths of 32,675 people in 2014, the last year for which data is available. All told, the figure accounted for 10% of all driving-related deaths last year.