In 2007, a law was passed that requires drivers throughout Maine to slow down and/or pull over if they encounter a stopped emergency vehicle. If you see the flashing lights and fail to respond appropriately, you can be issued a summons and fined $326.

Each time a police officer stops a motor vehicle or investigates a crash, they risk being struck by a passing driver. Accidents involving motor vehicles are the number one killer of police officers on state roads and highways. The same is true for fire and EMS first responders when they are working at the scene of a crash or medical emergency on the side of the highway.

Under Title 29-A §2054-9 MRSA, drivers passing a parked emergency vehicle with its emergency lights activated must pass in a lane that is not adjacent to the vehicle or, if doing so is unsafe or impossible, must pass at a careful and prudent speed. In this context, ‘emergency vehicle’ includes but is not limited to: police cruisers, ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks, wreckers, and highway safety vehicles.

On a regular basis our first responders witness driver’s ignoring this law along with another one that has been on the books for decades. Maine law requires drivers to yield to approaching emergency vehicles that are using their emergency lights and sirens by pulling as far as is practical to the right side of the roadway and stopping until the emergency vehicle has passed.

Secondary crashes are another significant problem that first responders need to deal with. Time and time again we will be out on the turnpike or some other roadway dealing with a crash. Suddenly we hear the screech of brakes and the impact of a separate crash unrelated to the one we are there to mitigate. These are almost always caused by driver inattention. Instead of slowing down, paying attention, and driving slowly and carefully by the original crash, drivers frequently get fixated on the first crash. This inattention causes the secondary crash often requiring additional emergency resources and taxing first responders unnecessarily.

For several years now, state police, local police, fire and EMS departments, and wrecker companies have been meeting and training on Traffic Incident Management (TIM) techniques. One of the main objectives of this program is to have everyone working as a team with the single goal of clearing the crash scene as soon as possible to help reduce the frequency of secondary crashes. The goal is simple, by caring for the injured, investigating and mitigating the crash, and clearing that roadway as soon as possible, it lowers the chance of injury to first responders and secondary crashes.

Drivers are very unpredictable. But when emergency vehicles are passing we need you to be very predictable. For our safety and the safety of others on the road, please slow down, move over, and use extreme caution when passing any emergency vehicle or active crash scene. ALWAYS pull to the right and stop for approaching emergency vehicles. Allow us to pass by safely and keep a safe distance from our emergency vehicles.

When you see an emergency vehicle approaching chances are you don’t know where we are going, what the emergency is, or who it involves. It could be someone you love, it could be an emergency where literally seconds count between life and death. You might be in a hurry to get where you are going, but so are we. Please move over and stop, give us room to get to the people who need our help as quickly as possible, and do your part to help protect those who are here to help you.

If you have any questions about this article or any fire department issue you may contact me at [email protected] or 730-4201

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