Drivers fail to yield for EMTs: 'We have a patient on board'

Drivers fail to yield for EMTs: 'We have a patient on board' »Play Video
The driver is loaded into an ambulance Thursday morning. (KATU image)

FLORENCE, Ore. -It's one of the first rules every driver learns when getting their drivers license. Drivers must pull over and stop to allow active emergency personnel through the area.

While this is may be an obvious rule of the road for many, medics on the coast say that too many Oregon drivers have either forgotten the law, or choose to ignore it.

A week and a half ago, EMT Dave Haberman was rushing a heart attack patient from Mapleton to Sacred Heart at RiverBend in Springfield on Highway 126.

"We just couldn't get the cars to move over.  They would stay in their lane and continue in front of us," said Haberman.

It's an issue that the Western Lane Ambulance Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) said has created a big safety issue; drivers fail to yield for active emergency vehicles.

"That's the most dangerous part of our occupation ... when we are driving," said Western Lane EMT Dave Haberman.

The driver's manual (and Oregon law) states that all drivers must yield to approaching emergency vehicles, pull over and stop. 

Haberman told KVAL News that the Code-3 trips, like the one from Mapleton to Springfield that often have the most problems.

"It's the Code-3's ... going to and from emergencies that seems to be our biggest nightmare." Haberman said.

Haberman said that more motorists are not stopping and he's frustrated.

"I would say that we have a pretty good population out there that pays attention but there's 50% out there that will not give us the right of way on the road," explained Haberman.

 He said that some drivers shift their cars just over the white fog line, never coming to a complete stop.

"Thinking that that's enough room for us to pass, but we have to be able to pass safely. We have a patient on board," the EMT said.

On another recent ambulance run, Haberman said a driver thought it was a good idea to drive faster, rather than pull over.  

For Haberman, that was a rare occurrence. More often they see motorists tailgating the ambulances they're rolling Code-3. 

Haberman says some drivers think they have a free run at driving fast, jeopardizing the safety of other drivers as well as the EMTs and victims inside the ambulances.

"If it was their family member in the back, I'd be sure that they'd get off the road and out of the way, if they knew it was one of theirs."

The state police said that failure to yield to an emergency vehicle is a class-B traffic violation resulting in a $260 ticket.