Commuters, professionals and small business owners from across Denver and surround know that the emergency vehicles utilized by our local police, fire department and ambulance services are on the road for one reason: to protect and serve the public at large. Whether it’s responding to crimes, accidents or emergencies, our first responders help keep us safe 365-days a year. Yet despite their best intentions, emergency response vehicles are involved in hundreds of accidents all over the country each calendar year. Crashes and accidents involving emergency response vehicles are a serious problem across the United States, all-too-often resulting in injury and death to emergency responders, other drivers and pedestrians alike. Understanding the underlying causes of these crashes is critical for establishing effective strategies for reducing the occurrence of similar incidents —and helping you take measure to avoid them, whether you’re traveling across one of Colorado’s picturesque highways or simply traveling in your own neighborhood.
Emergency response vehicles are often more likely to get into accidents every year, particularly given the fact that they need to travel at have to travel at high speeds to reach emergencies. It is estimated that emergency vehicle accidents in the United States costs $35 billion annually, and the statistics regarding accidents and emergency vehicles might surprise you. But by following these tips, you can stay safe on Denver’s roadways while giving first responders ample time and space to do their jobs of protecting the public at large safely and effectively.
National estimates say that over ambulances are involved in over 6,500 accidents each year —a third of which involve an injury or fatality. Over 63% of people killed in accidents with ambulances are passengers in another vehicle. Similarly, police vehicle pursuits result in over 300 fatalities on U.S. roads each calendar year. Estimates indicate that over 30% of these fatalities occurs to people who are not involved in the chase. Given the hazards inherent in most police chases, police officers are in involved in nearly double the rate of motor vehicle crashes versus the general public. If you’re on the road and see an emergency vehicle engaging or taking action on the road, following some simple steps can go a long way in keeping you out of harm's way —protecting you, the emergency response vehicle, and you fellow drivers.
Sirens Approaching From Behind
All drivers know to pull over to the right hand side of the road when you hear a siren approaching from behind. However, it's important to remember not to be hasty. While our knee-jerk reaction may be to turn to the right as quickly as possible, make sure you're careful there are no other vehicles, pedestrians, motorcyclists or cyclists in or around the breakdown lane or sidewalk. Also, keep your blinker or hazards lights on until all emergency vehicles have passed and you're sure it's safe to return to the flow of traffic.
Sirens Approaching From Up Ahead
When you hear emergency vehicle sirens approaching from ahead, take the same diligence when pulling over to the right. If you are heading in one direction with the lanes separated by barriers, the chances of an emergency vehicle traveling against traffic is rare, but not impossible. Pulling fully into the breakdown lane (when possible) frees your lane for the emergency responders to pass through if they are traveling against the grain.
Sirens Approaching as a Pedestrian or Bicyclist
Pedestrians and bicyclists also need to exercise caution when they are alerted by sirens on the road. Never operate a bicycle while listening to audio entertainment —particularly in heavily trafficked areas. Pedestrians should also remove any headphones prior to crossing heavily trafficked intersections and multi-lane roads —what you can’t hear might hurt you. In addition, both bicyclists and pedestrians need to utilize proper crossing areas such as crosswalks when navigating traffic. Failure to do so isn’t just a violation of the law, but could also jeopardize your safety.
Colorado's Move Over Law
All drivers in Colorado should familiarize themselves with the state's "Move Over" laws —a set of rules and restrictions that delicate the proper approach drivers should take when they approach an emergency vehicle. Colorado Law 42-4-705 states: "On a highway with at least two adjacent lanes proceeding in the same direction on the same side of the highway where a stationary authorized emergency vehicle or stationary towing carrier vehicle is located, the driver of an approaching or passing vehicle shall proceed with due care and caution and yield the right-of-way by moving into a lane at least one moving lane apart from the stationary authorized emergency vehicle or stationary towing carrier vehicle." That's a long way of saying give emergency responders as much room as possible when the situation allows.
First Responders are Trained to Drive Safe
Rest assured, all emergency response vehicle operators receive training on how to navigate the roads properly. Emergency Vehicle Operator Courses (EVOC), are designed to educate first responders in identifying strategies and techniques that can be utilized during emergency vehicle operations. Throughout EVOC training, fireman, ambulance drivers and policeman are trained in the many dynamic forces of nature and physics, which will work both for and against the safe operation of emergency vehicles.
Injured in a Car Accident in Denver? Contact Mark A. Simon
If you’ve been injured in an accident with an emergency vehicle while following the rules of the road, the experienced and professional team here at Mark A. Simon are here to help. We have decades of experience with workplace compensation and personal injury suits across Denver, Littleton, Aurora and surrounds. Our team of attorneys works closely with each of our clients to get you what’s rightfully yours if you’re injured through no fault of your own.