27 Nov 2019

Drivers, get out of the way - emergency services' plea

From Checkpoint, 5:40 pm on 27 November 2019

Drivers, get out of the way, please.

That's the message from emergency services frustrated with Auckland drivers who are blocking their way as they rush to critical incidents, lights flashing and sirens blazing.

Dash cam footage released by the police shows some drivers cruising along in their lane for at least 20 seconds, with a fire truck or police car on their tail desperate to get past.

Some of the drivers seem oblivious to the fact they're in the way - despite the sirens.

Tāmaki Makaurau road policing manager Inspector Scott Webb says it is a problem as emergency services head into the busy summer holiday period.

"Some people, it's clear they don't know what to do. Other people, they're freaked or startled with what's going on. There's the occasional one that will be playing a few games with us.

"But on the whole, people are just a little bit unclear about what to do when they see an emergency vehicle come up behind them, so we just want to get the message out there, particularly coming into the busy season on the roads."

Emergency service drivers will often see people totally distracted in traffic, he said.

"There was a person actually folding washing. There was a washing basket on the seat and then the patient sort of folding washing.

"That's an example of how distracted some people can be, and I mean the lights are pretty bright and the sirens extremely loud. So people just need to be aware of their surroundings when they're driving."

"It's not just Auckland drivers, we police up into Northland and down into Waikato and on rural, some arterial roads, people will do things like this."

He said some of the worst driver behaviour he has seen is on the motorways.

"Someone will look in the rear vision mirror and see that there are lights, and they will simply slam on the brakes.

"So you're in the outside, right-hand, faster travelling lane, and they'll come to a complete stop.

"And you can imagine a fire engine, ambulance or police car travelling to an incident at a higher speed having to stop - it's pretty frightening."

He said emergency services staff have told him it is common for emergency vehicles to be held up by traffic not moving out of the way.

"It can be a couple of times a shift, and we've all seen some of the video clips where going to one incident there's about six vehicles that just didn't get out of the way, or they took quite some time.

"What people have to remember is when they call emergency services whether it's fire, police, ambulance, the minutes and seconds count.

"You have large fire engines, pretty big units, come in behind people and still people will not get out of the way.

"What we're saying is just move to the left, get out of the way."