Not all drivers pull over in emergencies

ABC7 Eyewitness News: What's Bugging You?
LOS ANGELES Lights and sirens mean there are emergency vehicles on the road. When seconds count, the last thing firefighters need are drivers who don't know what to do.

In one video, an SUV is seen cutting off a fire engine. The SUV then pulls over, but another vehicle simply stops in the middle of the road. Both vehicles block the street and the fire engine has to swerve to go around them. It's just another day on the road for these guys.

"People stopping in the middle of the street, they'll pull to their left, they'll actually give chase to the apparatus," said L.A. City Fire Battalion Chief Michael Thomas.

Eyewitness News got e-mails from several drivers angry at seeing fire trucks and ambulances being cut off in traffic, or people who don't get out of the way. So Eyewitness News went on a ride along with Engine Company 20 and Engine Company 27.

On the streets of Hollywood, pedestrians were in no hurry to get out of the the way. During one call, firefighters were waving, trying to get traffic to stop so they can pull out. But the cars keep driving by.

Firefighters say it's amazing how often people don't know what to do when they see fire trucks approaching.

"People get distracted," said Thomas. "We have the advent of cell phones, text messaging... And people do a number of things, as we all know, from eating to reading literature. I mean, everything but paying attention to their driving."

So what should you do? Firefighters say the law is clear -- pull to the right as far as you can. It's the safest thing and it's the law. But don't stop suddenly because that can cause accidents.

"The streets are congested, as it is on any given day here in Los Angeles," said Thomas. "Trying to respond timely to emergencies is a challenge. But it's serious business, so we really appreciate the public's cooperation."

Firefighters say be alert. If you have loud music and air conditioning on, you probably won't hear these vehicles no matter how loud they are.

But don't think it doesn't really matter, because your moment of inattention or ignorance could mean the difference between life and death for somebody else.

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