Sixty percent of drivers passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road will post a photo or video to social media while they are behind the wheel.
A survey detailing this deadly statistic and or distracted driving habits was recently released as a joint effort by the National Safety Council and the Emergency Responder Safety Institute.
“The cruel irony is, we are putting the people who are trying to improve safety in very unsafe situations,” said Nick Smith, NSC CEO and interim president, in a statement. “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.”
The results of the survey were released in conjunction with Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which is observed every April to raise awareness and educate about the importance of being attentive behind the wheel.
According to the survey results, 71% of U.S. drivers take photos or videos when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road responding to a fire or a crash, or simply making a routine traffic stop. In addition to 60% admitting that they made a post on social media, 66% said they sent an email about the situation while driving.
More than 1 in 10 of respondents (16%) said they either have struck or nearly struck a first responder or emergency vehicle stopped on or near the road. Despite knowing the consequences, 89% of drivers say they believe distracted motorists are a major source of risk to first responders.
During normal driving conditions, 24% of drivers surveyed said they take photos or video while driving and 29% admitted to using social media.
Emergency responders are particularly vulnerable to accidents because they exit their vehicles and tend to situations on active roadways.
In 2013, 37 people died in crashes involving ambulances, fire trucks or police cars, and an additional 17,028 were injured. Sadly, 49% of survey respondents said possibly being struck by a vehicle is “just part of the risk” of being a first responder, according to the NSC.
Other important findings from the survey include:
- 19% of drivers admit their own inattentive driving has probably put first responders at unnecessary risk.
- Despite being willing to engage in risky behaviors while driving around emergency vehicles, 62% say they are “above average” drivers when passing an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing on the side of the road.
- 24% do not realize that there are legal requirements for what drivers must do when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road.
- Even though 97% say they will see an emergency vehicle if it has its flashing lights on, 74% would still like responders to wear reflective clothing.
- 80% of drivers say they slow down to get a better look when they see an emergency response vehicle tending to a fire, crash or traffic stop. Doing so backs up traffic and creates other safety hazards.
- Encouragingly, 67% have heard of “Move Over” laws and 73% say they move over when they see an emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the road with its lights on – the proper response on nearly all roadways.
“Those that serve the public are exposed to a number of risks, including risks from those that they serve,” said I. David Daniels, chair of the NSC Government and Public Sector Division, which initiated the NSC-ERSI partnership. “These two organizations’ joint efforts will most certainly help increase safety for public sector workers and reduce communities’ costs incurred from vehicle crashes involving public employees.”
Funding for the survey was provided to the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association through the FEMA Fire Prevention and Firefighter Safety Grant Program.