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|Sheriff urges motorists to yield for all emergency vehicle|
Blue or red lights are twirling behind you and sirens are screeching as you're driving -- what do you do?
Sheriff Randy Maxwell says the first thing is, "Don't panic."
"This is a huge problem for all emergency personnel," Maxwell points out. "It doesn't matter if it's a fire truck, ambulance or deputy's vehicle, all of our emergency personnel in this parish and elsewhere encounter problems daily with motorists who either panic and cannot yield the right of way -- or the drivers simply refuse to yield to the emergency vehicle. Either way, it can cause life-threatening situations."
Maxwell points out that if there are lights and sirens, there's definitely someone or more than one person needing that emergency response team. If the team cannot reach the initial caller, or is delayed in reaching that person, therein lies the first dangerous situation.
Then, if a motorist does not respond by allowing the emergency vehicle or vehicles to pass, that places the emergency responders, as well as the motorist, in jeopardy on the highway.
"There are so many factors to consider," Maxwell added, "in this situation -- the need for a speedy response to the initial caller, the other drivers" reaction time to seeing and hearing the lights and sirens, the amount of traffic, road conditions -- everyone needs to work together on this problem to ensure the safety of all concerned."
Louisiana law requires motorists to "immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer."
The Sheriff also pointed out that if an emergency vehicle is using an visual signals and is parked on or near the highway, state law requires passing motorists to slow down to 25 miles per hour and "merge into the lane farthest from the emergency vehicle" if on a 4-lane highway. If it is a 2-lane road, passing motorists should slow to 25 miles per hour, proceed cautiously, until it is safe to proceed at the posted speed limit.
Another little-known fact of Louisiana law (RS 32:71) actually calls for all traffic to use the right-hand lane of a 4-lane roadway, unless passing a slow-moving vehicle.
Further, a law passed in 1984, prohibits what is knows as a "rolling roadblock." That law concerning the passing lane applies to drivers who are in the left lane of multilane highways, outside of municipalities.
The law prohibits the person in the left lane from traveling the same speed as the car beside them in the right lane ñ in effect creating a rolling roadblock. Included in the law are interstate highways and four-lane U.S. and Louisiana highways where the posted speed limit is at least 55 miles per hour.
"It's extremely important for everyone to be aware of the problems emergency personnel face out on the roadway," Maxwell stressed. "First responders are highly trained in traffic safety, but they really need the public's help and full cooperation in times of emergency."
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