REMSA Needs Room on Ambulance Calls - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

REMSA Needs Room on Ambulance Calls

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Emergency responders say one persistent problem is getting worse in Reno…drivers not yielding to ambulances as they rush to a call. For EMT Evan Schwartz, it's a serious problem that needs serious attention. "There are a lot of distractions out there and it is getting worse. And it's making it more difficult for us to respond."

It's been caught on camera time after time. Playing some recordings, Evan showed us one where a car stops in the middle lane in front of a green light, right over a crosswalk. The car doesn't budge despite the siren and flashing lights, forcing the ambulance driver to make some tricky moves. In frustration, the ambulance driver yells, "Oh my god! You're killing me!"

In another recording, a car in the left lane on the highway responds to the sirens behind it by stopping without pulling all the way to the left. As EMS Manager Steven Kopp told us, "I've seen people swerve onto oncoming traffic from the left lane, slam their brakes on..." He says that when the sirens blast, not enough northern Nevadans move over. He says it happens on a "daily basis. It's not necessarily their fault. They're just not paying attention sometimes."

The basic rule is "red light, move right." If there's room on the road for the ambulance to pass, slow to a stop and don't cross over multiple lanes. To get the word out about the importance of this, we took a ride ourselves…first checking out the siren. Hard to believe other motorists can't hear the piercing blast. EMT Evan Schwartz believes that, "With all the soundproofing in vehicles today, yeah it's very easy not to hear the siren."

An ambulance like the one we rode in tips the scales at over 14,000 pounds. Since they often go over the speed limit, they need a lot of room to stop. Even without that happening, the race to a call is always nerve-wracking. We were going 80 miles per hour down the highway on our call. It is a business where time means life.

Just off the exit on the way to our medical emergency, the lanes are blocked. Our driver, EMT Brett Zolkos, goes around…driving over the traffic island and backing up his siren with some blasts from his air horn.

The other drivers on this emergency call hear it. Brett makes it in time to his call. But as much as they keep their cool behind the wheel, REMSA needs some extra help sharing the road. As EMS Manager Steven Kopp put it, "We have to get there safe. It doesn't do you any good if you don't get there."

-written by John Potter

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