When I was 16 and just learning how to drive, my dad explained defensive driving: "Just assume that fella in the other car is going to do the dumbest thing possible. Rarely will you be disappointed." Time and again, my father's words have rung true. When you work under the assumption that something dumb will unfold right in front of your eyes, you are a moment ahead of the curve. If and when it happens, anticipation gives you a slight edge in the reaction time game, and sometimes that's all it takes to avoid a crash.
5. Always leave yourself an out
As you wait to see if the guy who's speeding toward the intersection will stop or do something dumb, ask yourself, "If he runs the stop sign, what should I do?" Remember, whatever evasive maneuver you decide on directly impacts the patient and caregivers in the back of the box.
Constantly checking your mirrors for what's to your left, right and behind is essential to safe driving, as it leaves you with avoidance options. Again, thinking through those options in advance instead of at the moment the crisis occurs can give you that split-second edge.
Being a safe and conscientious emergency vehicle operator carries with it great responsibilities. Here's hoping these tips help make you just a little bit safer out on the mean streets. Until next month...
Mike Smith, BS, MICP, is program chair for the Emergency Medical Services program at Tacoma Community College in Tacoma, WA, and a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board.