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When you hear siren pay heed

Jan Hearne • Mar 18, 2013 at 8:55 AM

You are sitting at the red light at South Greenwood Drive when you see an ambulance approaching on your right on State of Franklin. Its siren is on and its lights are flashing. Your light turns green. What do you do?

A. Shoot through the light so that you can get in front of the ambulance, slowing the ambulance’s progress. (After all, this is a busy intersection and you have things to do.)

B. Shoot through the light, then come to a dead stop in the left lane so the ambulance, which is also in the left lane, can put on its brakes and go around you in the right lane, slowing the ambulance’s progress.

C. Wait at the green light until the ambulance has passed, check for emergency vehicles that may be following it, then proceed through the light — if it is still green.

D. Give thanks it is not your loved one in the ambulance whose life depends on the civility of strangers.

Answer: C&D

I witnessed this awkward “dance” while on my way to pick up lunch last week. As the cars starting racing through the light on South Greenwood, I thought, “Oh, no, this is not happening.”

I tried to imagine what those drivers were thinking:

“I simply cannot sit through this light again, I’m going.”

“That ambulance is just going to have to slow down so I can go.”

“I have time to ‘beat’ it.” Or, maybe, “My pizza is getting cold.”

What’s the rush? Really.

I am extremely grateful that I have never needed an ambulance (knock wood).

I rode with my mother in an ambulance from the hospital to the nursing home the day before she died, but there was no rush, and neither sirens nor high speeds were involved.

Decades ago, my sister was in a car wreck and transported by ambulance to the hospital, but that was back in the day when people yielded to flashing lights.

When I give the matter thought, I’m not sure people in a hurry are the reason for such rudeness. I think people are angry; they don’t want to be told what to do; they don’t want their routine messed with because some guy had a heart attack and needs to get to the hospital.

But what if it were your husband, your wife, your mother, your father, your child who was sick or injured and seconds could make a difference between living or dying?

What if your loved one was killed in a crash because someone ran into the ambulance they were in?

If last week were the first time I’d seen blatant disregard for flashing lights, I would have shaken my head and forgotten about it.

In my observational experience, however, it happens more often than not.

This creeping callousness makes me uneasy because it seems this type of thing just worsens as “nice” people get tired of being pushed around and become callous themselves.

I really hope we can keep the wolves at bay.

Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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