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‘Cruel irony’ endangers emergency crews as drivers get

Car accident attorneysBetween January and early April 2019, 16 emergency responders were stuck and killed by vehicles as they dealt with a crash or car fire.

This comes at a time when a survey shows over 70 percent of U.S. drivers take photos or videos when they see emergency vehicles on the road.

The National Safety Council released the survey about driver distraction around emergency vehicles in a post on its website.

“The cruel irony is, we are putting the people who are trying to improve safety in very unsafe situations,” said Nick Smith, interim president and CEO of the Illinois-based, nonprofit National Safety Council.

Shocking survey results

The survey about driver distraction around emergency vehicles also found that when coming across emergency responders on the road:

  • 60 percent of drivers post to social media while behind the wheel
  • 66 percent send an email while behind the wheel
  • 16 percent said they either have struck or nearly struck a responder or emergency vehicle stopped on or near the road
  • 89 percent said they believe distracted motorists are a major source of risk to first responders.

For this survey, 2,001 questionnaires were completed between Jan. 22 - Feb. 2, 2019 by U.S. residents 21 or older with unrestricted driver’s licenses. The goal of the survey was to develop policies, programs and educational material that will reduce traffic fatalities.

Police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are vulnerable because they exit their vehicles to tend to accidents, fires and other problems on highways and other roads with fast-moving traffic.

In 2013, crashes involving ambulances, fire trucks or police cruisers killed 37 people. Another 17,028 people were injured in cases of driver distraction around emergency vehicles.

Only 1 percent of those in the survey said their own driving behavior was below average, but 28 percent said they believed the driving of others was below average. Nobody said they “definitely would not” notice a first responder vehicle with its lights flashing stopped on or near the side of the road.

Other findings from the survey:

  • 19 percent of drivers admit their own inattentive driving has probably put first responders at risk
  • Despite being willing to engage in risky behaviors while driving around emergency vehicles, 62 percent said they were “above average” drivers when passing an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing on the side of the road
  • 80 percent of drivers said they slow down to get a better look when they see an emergency vehicle dealing with a fire, crash or traffic stop, even though doing so backs up traffic and is itself a hazard
  • 24 percent said they didn’t realize there were laws dictating what drivers must do when coming upon emergency vehicles on the road.

All 50 states have a "move over" law that requires that drivers give emergency responders room to work. Police say it's a toss-up that drivers actually will do so, according to a CBS News story in May 2019.

A video posted with the CBS News story shows a Florida Highway Patrol trooper throwing another man to safety right before being hit by a car himself on Interstate 95 in December 2018.

Contact Twenge+Twombley Law Firm today for cases involving driver distraction around emergency vehicles or other personal injury cases in South Carolina.

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