“Don’t try to keep up…..”

“…..and don’t follow me through red lights!!” It sounds silly but it’s happened! The relative, or relatives of the patient make their own way to hospital and decide to follow the Ambulance. That’s fine, unless the ambulance is rushing the patient in! Or, on the way to hospital, the job starts as a non-emergency but the patient’s condition deteriorates. All too often your crewmate sticks his head through the window into the front cabin and quietly says “GLF” (Go Fast!). A swift radio call to Control to inform them you are upgrading the call (in case you involved in an rtc) and the blue lights and sirens are activated. This would often alarm the relative(s) in the following car and they’d then try to keep with the ambulance all the way to hospital to find out what happened as soon as possible.

The true nut nuts are those known as “Ambulance Chasers”. They exist! They’re those idiots who try to keep up with Ambulances, usually on dual carriageways, at speeds in excess of the limit for that road. Ambulance crews are all trained to a high standard of driving before they are given the right to use government exemptions regarding certain road laws. One of those exemptions is the ability to drive in excess of the speed limit, another being the right to treat a red stop light as a give way. Relatives and ambulance chasers can not claim these exemptions! (This does not mean ambulance crews are above the law, they can still be charged with careless or dangerous driving.)

I experienced an ambulance chaser who thought he could beat us once:- driving to a job on a country road I knew well, above the speed limit with my blue lights and sirens operating, some fool in a posh 4×4 decided they could drive faster. They weaved about, very close behind me for a bit, trying to get past. Eventually I pointed this out to my colleague who immediately radioed control to explain the dangerous situation. While they were on the radio I saw a wide section of road ahead on an empty straight. I pulled to the left slightly to let them past……and they passed then cut us up!! All this to a live, recorded, radio commentary from my partner.

On returning to our own station after the job we were met by two traffic police officers who took statements about the incident. Later we discovered after leaving us they had gone straight to the driver’s house and thrown the book at them.

There is no excuse, and no justification for trying to drive like an emergency driver, unless you actually are one, going to an emergency. It’s so easy to become frustrated when somebody’s life is in your hands and other people’s selfish actions get in the way of that, but you have to do your utmost to remain calm and use every part of your training to keep everyone as safe as possible. Ambulance drivers have conditions under which they are authorised to use their lights and sirens, they will never use them to get back to their station quickly for a teabreak or similar.

If you see any vehicle with blue lights flashing, here are some things to consider:- Are you in their way? If so, think about their route. If you are on a dual carriageway, move into the other lane so they don’t have to. If you are on a single carriageway, move out of their path, think about where they can most easily go to pass you. Under NO circumstances, ever, should you just stop where you are!!! Ambulances are heavy and not hugely maneuverable, they often have patients in the back that need to be kept as still as possible, so their best route is as straight as reasonably possible.

One thing to note – if an ambulance driver toots their horn twice as they pass you, they are not saying “thank you” or acknowledging you, they are simply changing the sound of their sirens or turning them off.

Be considerate and don’t be a dangerous nut nut. The blue lights mean they’re in a hurry for a reason. Don’t make things worse.

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