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Tuesday / 16 July 2024
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This alarming new trend is taking shape on South Africa’s roads

There is an alarming trend taking shape on South Africa’s roads with drivers refusing to give way to emergency service vehicles that are responding to incidents, either due to inattentiveness or sheer stubbornness.

David Farber, a paramedic with the CSO Medical Response Unit in Cape Town, who goes by @medicdave on social media, regularly live streams his callouts and publishes videos on platforms such as TikTok for viewers to get a fascinating in-depth look at the daily lives of emergency response workers, but more importantly, to educate drivers on the importance of giving way.

Speaking on Cape Talk, Farber said he has been driving ambulances for over 10 years, and that motorists not making space when he approaches them has lately become the norm, rather than the exception to the rule.

On one outrageous occasion, he said an unhappy motorist followed him to the scene of an incident where he had to resuscitate a person, and the driver waited outside to give him “a piece of their mind.”

“They didn’t feel like the medical vehicle with red lights and sirens had the right of passage on the roads,” he said. Eventually, it ended up having to be “sorted out legally.”

There have also been several close calls where Farber said if he arrived at his destination a minute or two later, it would have been too late to rescue someone in need, as well as many incidents where he believes if he got there “a little bit quicker, the outcome would have been different.”

@medicdave Final part #boom ♬ From Nothing – Josh Leake

The emergency response community therefore calls on all drivers to remain attentive on the roads and to check their mirrors frequently to give them enough time to move out of the way if an emergency vehicle approaches.

“It’s evident on the videos I post, I can come up behind someone on two kilometres of clear road and they haven’t once checked the mirror, and then suddenly they do and they get a skrik (fright) and hammer the car left,” said Farber.

Emergency vehicles generally come up faster than the average car, so Farber said many motorists may become flustered and anxious when they suddenly see flashing lights and a fast-approaching ambulance in their rear-view mirrors, and forget what to do.

In this scenario, he recommends remaining calm, avoid slamming on the brakes, and gently slow down and move to the left.

“Even if you need to stop in the middle of the road, it’s fine, just do it gradually, and we’ll do the rest,” said Farber.

Cape Town CSO Emergency Response Unit

Don’t take advantage of the situation

On the topic of motorists taking advantage of the situation when an emergency vehicle drives past and getting into its slipstream to skip traffic, Farber said this is extremely dangerous behaviour and should be avoided at all costs.

Emergency vehicles on a callout drive faster than most motorists and frequently have to make abrupt stops, putting the lives of those closely tailing them at risk.

There are other consequences besides injuries and time wasted, too.

“If someone hits my car, besides bodily issues or going to the hospital, that car is off the road and it cannot help anymore,” said Farber.

Getting an ambulance back into duty is not as simple as quickly getting it repaired and reregistering it, either. The operator has to get the vehicle reapproved for service by the Department of Health which can take several months.

Farber himself once had to stop his ambulance on the way to a callout to tell a tailgating motorist to stop, which may have cost him extremely valuable time.

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