Following these rules of the road can make highways safer for all

If you’re driving and see an emergency vehicle on the road, what do you do? Many people know to pull over if the lights and sirens are on, but there are many more safety precautions first responders want you to know.

At Canandaigua Emergency Squad, our crews provide specialty care transports on a regular basis for critically ill patients. From homes to crash scenes to other hospitals, our crews are responding to calls 24/7. This means when we’re on the road, we need to reach our destination quickly, efficiently and safely. Our No. 1 priority is providing top-of-the-line critical care to our community and taking care of our patients. While our crews are trained to maintain the safest environment possible while responding to calls, we need your help to keep our patients and crews safe.

Keep the safety tips that follow at the top of your mind the next time you’re on the road.

Pull over and stay stopped

If there is an emergency vehicle coming your way with its lights and/or sirens activated, pull over to the right and stop until it passes. Do not attempt to keep moving while you are on the side of the road. Emergency vehicles often need to exceed the posted speed limit, so it’s safest for cars to stay out of potential lanes of traffic until they’ve cleared your area.

Share the road

When you see any emergency vehicle, take extra care not to cut them off or slam on your breaks. When this happens, we need to stop forcefully, which can cause complications with our equipment or excessive discomfort to our patients, who may already be in pain.

Maintain a safe following distance

Have you ever seen a sign on trucks that says, “If you can’t see our mirrors, we can’t see you?” The same is true for ambulances, which have multiple blind spots due to the design. When following an ambulance, please stay at least 500 feet, or four car lengths, behind us.

Constantly check your mirrors

Drivers should be checking their mirrors approximately every five to eight seconds. While this may sound frequent, a lot can happen in just five seconds. Remaining alert will help you spot an emergency vehicle coming from behind. The sirens won’t always be on, so checking your mirrors is crucial.

Remove the headphones

Never wear headphones while driving unless they’re used to amplify sound for the hearing impaired. Headphones can cause you to be less aware of your surroundings, as they dull or block out sounds. Therefore, you may not hear the horns or sirens of other cars and emergency vehicles.

Follow the Move Over Law

In New York state, drivers are required to use due care to avoid colliding with an authorized emergency or hazard vehicle while that vehicle is stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights. The law requires that the approaching motorist move one full lane away from the stopped vehicle. This includes ambulances, police vehicles, fire trucks, tow trucks and maintenance vehicles.

About this series

Matt Sproul is chief of the Canandaigua Emergency Squad (CES), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit unit that receives no tax-based support. CES responds to more than 5,000 calls per year serving the towns of Canandaigua, Hopewell, Gorham, Bristol and East Bloomfield and the village of Bloomfield. East Bloomfield Volunteer Ambulance is a division of CES. For more information, go to canandaiguaes.org. If you have questions or want to get involved, send emails to info@canandaigues.org.