Tips to keep you and first responders safe while driving

ESCAPE Fire Safety

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) – According to the United States Fire Administration, twelve percent of on-duty firefighter fatalities occur each year while responding to or returning from incidents, with the majority of fatalities resulting from vehicle crashes. Vehicle collision is the second leading cause of firefighter fatalities.

Each year during the third week of June, Safety Stand Down highlights critical safety, health and survival issues for the fire and emergency services. The 2020 Safety Stand Down takes place June 14-20. This year’s theme calls attention to the hazards that emergency responders face while performing their duties on roadways. Operating in Michigan’s roadways continues to be some of the most treacherous incident scenes firefighters, police officers and emergency medical service providers respond to.

From 1996 to 2010, vehicle collisions claimed 253 firefighter lives and another 70 firefighters were lost as a result of being struck by a vehicle. Between 1996 and 2010, vehicle collisions/struck-by-incidents accounted for 22% of all fatalities.

In June 2017, Comstock Township Fire Chief Edward Switalski was hit and killed by a passing vehicle while he was responding to a crash on eastbound I-94 in Kalamazoo County. According to authorities, the driver of the vehicle was speeding and distracted by his cellphone at the time of the crash and hit Switalski while he was outside of his vehicle.

“We all need to be alert and avoid reckless and distracted driving so our emergency responders are able to safely return home to their families after every emergency incident,” said Firefighter Michael McLeieer, Past President of the Michigan State Firemen’s Association and President of the non-profit safety organization E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc.

Here’s what you can do to keep you, your family and our emergency responders safe:

  • Avoid distractions while driving. Distracting activities include using a cell phone and/or texting, eating and drinking, talking to passengers or pets, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, watching a video, changing the radio station, CD or MP3 player, and loud music.
    • There are three main types of distraction:
      • Visual – taking your eyes off the road
      • Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
      • Cognitive – taking your mind off of what you’re doing
  • If have a minor accident, you’re not seriously injured and your vehicle is able to be driven, move it off the roadway. Avoid stepping out into traffic.
  • Pull to the right for sirens and lights. Slow down and pull off the roadway when you see or hear emergency vehicles approaching.
  • Slow Down! And Move Over. Motorists are required to slow down and move over for stationary emergency vehicles when their lights are activated. This includes fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, tow truck operators, solid waste haulers, utility service vehicles and road service and maintenance vehicles. If a motorist is unable to move over into an adjacent lane, then Michigan law requires the motorist to slow down to at least 10 mph below the posted speed limit and pass with caution, giving the emergency vehicle as much room as possible.

E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety urges Michiganders to focus on your driving and avoid distractions so you, your passengers and our emergency responders will remain safe and injury free!

For more information on the 2020 Safety Stand Down, visit www.safetystanddown.org.

Article by Firefighter Michael McLeieer – E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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