ANDERSON, Ind. — The deaths of two paramedics in a crash last weekend has prompted the Indianapolis Emergency Medical Service to issue an appeal.
Their message: Don’t drink and drive; don’t text and drive. Just drive. Pay attention.
Timothy McCormick, 24, and Cody Medley, 22, died of injuries in a two-vehicle crash. They were in an ambulance together on a non-emergency run when they were hit by a 21-year-old driver. An investigation into the cause of the wreck is continuing.
It illustrated the danger of operating an emergency vehicle on public streets and highways. On average, almost 1,300 U.S. workers per year died from roadway crashes between 2003 and 2009, according to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Emergency runs by medical teams, hot-pursuit chases by police or time-critical responses by fire trucks are difficult for those doing their job as well as motorists trying to be safe and stay out of the way.
“They (emergency responders) never know what to expect when they go on a call,” Madison County (Ind.) Sheriff Ron Richardson said. “Unfortunately, if people don’t pay attention, it can cost a life.”
Indiana law says drivers must yield the right-of-way to any emergency vehicle with audible sirens or with flashing lights. The driver should immediately pull parallel to the edge of the road on the right-hand side and stay put until the emergency vehicle has passed.
Failure to yield is a problem “I think we’re seeing more often,” said Anderson (Ind.) fire chief Phil Rogers. “I’m not sure if it’s that they (drivers) don’t know the rules, or they’re in a hurry or if they’re just not paying attention.”
Alexandria Fire Chief Bruce Waters said failure to follow safe driving rules creates a two-fold problem. Not following the rules “can cause traffic danger and also slows our response time. And every second counts,” he said.
Waters remembers responding to a motor vehicle accident, when he was stuck behind an elderly driver for almost two miles.
“They never looked in their mirrors,” he said.
In July, a car struck Alexandria (Ind.) paramedic Tim Layton’s emergency vehicle while he was responding to a call. The woman driving the 1999 Oldsmobile told police she didn’t see Layton.
“Drivers need to be more vigilant,” said Layton, who was treated for pain in the shoulders and neck after the accident. “Pay attention to what’s going on around you.”
While emergency drivers are trained to drive defensively, they’re still subject to many of the same rules as other drivers, Layton said.
“We try to follow the rules, so should they,” he said.
Details for this story were provided by The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.