Did you know that “rubber-necking” presents a serious risk to emergency first responders? A recent survey conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC) revealed that 71% of drivers take photos or videos as they pass by an accident scene. Many even post the pictures on social media or email others about the incident – all while driving!
80% of the drivers surveyed said they slow down to get a better look at the emergency situation, thereby backing up traffic and creating other safety hazards. Alarmingly, the survey also concluded that one in ten drivers admitted to striking or nearly striking an emergency vehicle or first responder.
“The cruel irony is, we are putting the people who are trying to improve safety in very unsafe situations,” said Nick Smith, the president and CEO of NSC at the time of the survey. “Our emergency responders deserve the highest levels of protection as they grapple with situations that are not only tactically difficult but also emotionally taxing. Save your communications for off the road; disconnect and just drive.”
In addition, New York has a “move over” law (NYSVTL 1144-a(a)), which specifically enacted to help safeguard the lives of first responders. This law requires that drivers give first responders the distance they need to do their work. Drivers are expected to move one full lane away from the stopped vehicle. Unfortunately, police report that only 50% of drivers actually adhere to this law. As a result, in 2020, there were 37 fatalities resulting from first responders being struck by passing vehicles. So far, through July 31st of this year, that number is already at 46.
We are all grateful to our emergency responders for the wonderful job they do, but we all need to do a better job keeping them safe while they work.