LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Little Rock Fire Department has responded to 30 thousand emergencies so far for 2017. That's about 3,000 calls a month.
For a majority of those calls, first responders said they're up against a growing problem, drivers who won't move over for emergency vehicles.
“It's all about getting to a call as quickly as possible but as safely as possible,” said Fire Captain Doug Coffman with the Little Rock Fire Department.
When an emergency call comes in, the sirens go off and the first responders head out.
“We may be going to a heart attack call or a house fire,” said Captain Coffman.
Seconds and minutes go by that could be the difference between life or death. So, that's why it's important for drivers to know how to pull over for emergency vehicles. The majority of local drivers don't know what to do.
“When emergency vehicles are responding they tend to panic which creates danger for them, for themselves, other drivers, and the firefighters,” he said.
Chris Marshall, Operations Manager for MEMS said they run into the same problem. “At least a dozen times a day that we experience this,” he added. “People I think are so caught up in driving and listening to the radio that they're not really paying attention to what's going on behind them and when they do yield it's usually a knee-jerk reaction where they slam on the breaks or veer to the right, sometimes they veer to the left.”
Captain Coffman said drivers that are distracted or ignore their flashing lights affect more than their calls. In 2015 there were a total of 16,600 accidents involving fire trucks and that lead to 3,800 firefighter injuries. “It’s something we take very seriously,” said the captain.
Marshall said they continuously see people that try to outrun them. “They speed up to get to the next light or they will try to get to the next exit before we get there.”
If you're on a city street and see an ambulance or fire truck behind you, you need to do two things: slow down and pull to the right. Even if you're on the opposite side of the road, you still need to slow down and pull to the right. If you’re at an intersection, wait until the light turns green, continue through the intersection and pull to the right. If traffic is present, emergency responders will work around you, but still, try to get to the right.
“Interstates are probably one of our biggest issues. They will come to a complete stop on the interstate and that creates a huge risk for an accident, I think that's the biggest risk that we run into,” said Captain Coffman.
“It can ultimately affect the outcome of someone's life,” said Marshall.
Another good reason to pull over, if you don’t you can be ticketed and the fines could cost up to 250 dollars.