Safe Intersection Practices

Safe Intersection Practices

For drivers of emergency vehicles, intersections are accidents waiting to happen. In fact, the largest percentage of major accidents involving emergency vehicles occur at intersections. Visibility is often restricted. There may be many vehicles converging at once. Other drivers' actions can't always be anticipated. And all the while, the responder's adrenaline is pumping as he focuses on getting quickly to the scene.

Even with the use of warning devices, intersections pose a serious threat to the safety of both emergency service personnel and the general public. Several years ago, a VFIS study showed that as many as 68% of emergency vehicle accidents occur with lights and sirens operating.

It is critical for every emergency service organization to adopt and put into practice intersection guidelines for emergency vehicle operators. At a minimum, these standard operating guidelines (SOGs) should include the following recommended practices:

Controlled intersections
     Any intersection controlled by a stop sign, yield sign, yellow traffic light or red traffic light requires a complete stop by the emergency vehicle driver if all visible traffic in all lanes cannot be accounted for. In addition, these steps must be followed:

  • Do not rely on warning devices to clear traffic.
  • Scan the intersection for possible hazards (right turns on red, pedestrians, vehicles traveling fast, etc.), as well as driver options.
  • Begin to slow down well before reaching the intersection and cover the brake pedal with the driver's foot, continue to scan in four directions (left, right, front, back).
  • Change the siren cadence not less than 200 feet from an intersection.
  • Scan the intersection for possible passing options (pass on right, left, wait, etc.). Avoid using the opposing lane of traffic if at all possible.
  • If all visible traffic in all lanes cannot be accounted for, the driver should bring the vehicle to a complete stop. If the driver proceeds past a control device with a negative right-of-way without coming to a complete stop, both the driver and officer should be required to complete an incident report providing an explanation of the circumstances that permitted them to do so.
  • Establish eye contact with other vehicle drivers; have your partner communicate all is clear; then reconfirm all other vehicles are stopped.
  • Proceed one lane of traffic at a time, treating each lane as a separate intersection.

Railroad Intersections
     Any time an emergency vehicle driver approaches an unguarded rail crossing, he/she should bring the apparatus or vehicle to a complete stop before entering the grade crossing. Prior to proceeding, the emergency vehicle driver should:

  • Turn off all sirens and air horns.
  • Operate the motor at idle speed.
  • Turn off any other sound-producing equipment or accessories.
  • Open the windows, and listen for a train's horn.

Uncontrolled Intersections
     Every emergency vehicle driver should do the following at any intersection that either does not have a control device (stop sign, yield or traffic signal) in the direction he is traveling, or where the traffic control signal is green as he approaches:

  • Scan the intersection for possible hazards (right turns on red, pedestrians, vehicles traveling fast, etc.).
  • Observe traffic in all four directions (left, right, front, rear).
  • Slow down if any potential hazards are detected, and cover the brake pedal with the driver's foot.
  • Change the siren cadence not less than 200 feet from intersection.
  • Avoid using the opposing lane of traffic if possible.

And-emergency vehicle drivers please take note-there is one more very important point we want to stress: You should always be prepared to stop. If another vehicle operator fails to yield the right of way to your emergency vehicle, you cannot force the right of way, nor should you assume the right of way, therefore you should not assume you have the right of way until the other vehicle yields to you!

This article was originally posted in 2006 and was part of a series of columns on emergency vehicle safety from VFIS. The columns were a component of VFIS' "Operation Safe Arrival" initiative, aimed at heightening safety awareness and reducing the frequency and severity of accidents involving emergency vehicles.

A noted emergency service educator, lecturer, author and consultant, Richard Patrick, MS, CFO, EMT-P, FF, serves as the director of the Medical First Responder Coordination for Medical Readiness Division of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Health Affairs (OHA). He began his service with DHS in June 2008 and has been actively involved in volunteer and career emergency medical and fire services for thirty years and is a nationally recognized leader in emergency services.

Continue Reading
Acushnet ambulances will be using Tylenol, Toradol, and ibuprofen as safer alternatives to fentanyl as the opioid epidemic continues to worsen.
AMR's Home for the Holidays program provides free rides to at least 40 patients in assisted living facilities to transport them to their loved ones.
The company announced a restructuring of its operational team that would transfer operational oversight to newly-created Regional Presidents and strengthen support from its national team.
Brewster Ambulance replaced the agency's old fleet with four new state-of-the-art units costing $224,000 each.
Lake County dispatch operators provide tips for callers to help first responders arrive in a timely and safe manner.
The sales tax increase should help cover much of the costs related to the agency's increased call volume, which is expected to be record-breaking this year.
The Cape Vincent Ambulance Squad will be separating from the fire department in order to recruit more members.
Adam R. Zaharick, who was charged with stealing and crashing an ambulance, is now facing assault charges for attacking two correctional officers.
The speedy work of EMS personnel was commended by the chief of trauma and emergency surgery at University Hospital, whose employees had been regularly training for shooting events like the one they experienced.
A second local fire department will be providing emergency medical services by training firefighters as EMTs to increase ambulance coverage.
Richard Alexander Fuentes, 17, was charged with assault on a public servant and public intoxication after striking a paramedic in her face.
CAMTS–CAMTS EU accredits Embrace Yorkshire & Humber Infant & Children’s Transport Service, and others receive CAMTS accreditation, during October 2017 CAMTS meeting.
Due to a lack of volunteers, the fire department will no longer be able to provide an ambulance service at the beginning of 2018.
Monroe Hospital alleges that their ambulance service transports 95 percent of its patients to a competing hospital in violation of antitrust laws, costing the facility millions of dollars in inpatient revenue.
Due to increased call volumes, a fire department and EMS agency have launched a pilot program to operate a shared back-up ambulance used during peak hours if other vehicles are busy on calls.