A Vermont rescue squad is urging drivers to pull over for emergency vehicles, saying their already stressful jobs can become even more so when they don't have the room on the roads they need to do their jobs safely.
"It's a constant problem," said Mike Chiarella, an advanced EMT with Richmond Rescue.
Chiarella said nearly every day, he and his fellow EMTs and paramedics come across drivers who just don't pull over, despite flashing red lights and blaring sirens.
"Modern cars — a lot of them have incredible sound-proofing in them, and people are playing their music loudly so they're not hearing the siren," Chiarella said.
Richmond Rescue provided necn with video examples taken from their ambulances’ onboard cameras that document drivers not following cues to pull over.
Anecdotally, several other police, fire, and rescue squads from around Vermont have commented to necn in recent months of the frustration they encounter when people don’t pull over for them when they have emergency lights on.
"We've come to expect"it,” Chiarella said, acknowledging it is particularly maddening to be on Interstate 89 with flashing lights during snowy conditions, and having cars pass his ambulance.
Back in April, the Champlain Islands witnessed a consequence of people who don't pull over.
An Alburgh fire truck was rushing to an electrical fire in Isle La Motte when Assistant Chief Ron Kumetz of the Alburgh Fire Department said oncoming cars didn’t give the truck room on a narrow road.
The engine tipped on a soft shoulder, became stuck, and two firefighters suffered minor injuries.
"You know, half the time people aren't paying attention—they don't look in their rear-view mirrors," Kumetz said on April 17.
"It irritates me when I see it," said Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn, who heads the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
Flynn, who is also a former deputy sheriff of the Grand Isle County Sheriff's Department and member of the Grand Isle Fire Department, said drivers in Vermont who don't let emergency vehicles pass can face cash fines — usually $249 — and five points on their license toward a suspension.
Police and fire vehicles, ambulances, tow trucks, and others displaying flashing lights as part of rescue operations all need to be respected as they do their work — with other drivers operating cautiously around them, and making lane changes if safe and possible.
"Not only is it the law, it's a courtesy," Flynn said.
Chiarella thanked the many drivers who do stay mindful of their surroundings, and asked the others to give crews the space they need, saying it could make a big difference in a crisis.
And while he wants to see folks slow down and pull to the right, Chiarella said he wants that done safely — so not on a curve or the crest of a hill, or in other difficult spots with poor visibility. In those cases, Chiarella said it's OK to go a little more before pulling over.