Emergency service drivers have a simple message for other road users: stay calm and pull over the instant you are aware of a vehicle with sirens blaring and lights flashing behind you.
Emergency drivers experience panicked motorists who either drive on to the footpath, or worse, freeze in the middle of the lane, forcing emergency vehicles across the centre line into oncoming traffic.
Police, fire engine and ambulance drivers shared their experiences yesterday to highlight the problem.
Senior fire station officer David Utumapu urged members of the public to stay calm and pull to a safe stop when approached by emergency vehicles.
Senior Constable Grant Kennard said he sometimes had to go around a vehicle, which forced him to cross the centre line.
"And if they continue driving along at the same speed, it means a longer period of time we'll have to cross the centre line," he said.
Mr Utumapu recounted a time when two schoolgirls made crews heading for a fire wait while they used a pedestrian crossing.
"We got the lights and sirens going and we came to a complete halt while they eyeballed us," he said.
Often drivers were unaware of their surroundings, Mr Utumapu said.
"They are not looking in the mirrors very often, not doing their little basic stuff."
Fire area commander Pat Fitzell said people driving with headphones on and windows turned up often did not hear the sirens and horns of emergency crews.
Mr Kennard said flashing lights signified a serious incident.
"It could be an accident or someone could have been shot," he said. "People's lives are at risk or they are dying and we're trying to get there as fast as possible to save lives."
- Taranaki Daily News
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