Ambulance service providers say “slow down and be alert”

The Smoky River Ambulance Service Society has an important message to pass along to the general public this spring and summer.
That message focuses upon an increased need for driver attention on local streets and rural highways as outdoor activities get set to kick into high gear.
“We’re asking everyone to enjoy the weather while remaining aware of their surroundings and the increased traffic,” says Rob Willick, Smoky River Ambulance Service Society manager. “It’s all about being responsible and being safe.”
Willick’s words of wisdom to the public serve as a reminder to the public about potential dangers looming within our communities, many of which are routinely ignored or overlooked.
That covers everything from reducing speeds to 30 km/hr through playground and school zones and watching for cyclists and pedestrians. The same rule of thumb applies for farm equipment and heavy oilfield equipment on highways, which typically travel well below the posted speed limit.
Willick says it’s imperative for motorists to slow down well in advance in of these situations by driving defensively.
“The key is to be patient without pushing the clock,” he said, while touching base on the importance of refraining from operating a motor vehicle when tired.
Another serious concern on behalf of the regional ambulance authority and other emergency response service providers stems from knowing what to do as a driver when an emergency vehicle approaches.
Section 103 of the Highway Traffic Act stipulates that all motorists yield the right of way to an emergency response vehicle, regardless of whether it’s an RCMP cruiser, an ambulance or a fire truck. That process includes pulling over to the right shoulder and coming to a complete stop by giving the emergency vehicle room to pass.
Ray Charest, and EMT (emergency medical technician) with the McLennan-based ambulance authority, says he’s seen a positive shift among drivers within the past year as a result of a push towards increased education.
“The difference is like night and day. Roughly 30 per cent of the vehicles we encountered prior to the spring of 2001 were unsure about how to react,” he explained, adding that in the past many drivers panicked by either stopping right in the middle of the road or attempting to turn right or left.
“Our current compliances rate is between 90 and 95 per cent,” he said referring to the statistical data as “a dramatic improvement.”
“The majority of people recognize us and know what to do in an emergency. The mindset is there and that’s just great,” adds Willick.
Motorists who fail to comply with these Highway Traffic Act regulations are subject hefty fines, which ranges from $115 for failing to yield for and RCMP officer to $86 for fire and ambulance services.
The Smoky River Ambulance Service Society employs nine full-time and five casual staff offering services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Willick says the ambulance authority welcomes inquiries related to providing services at recreational and annual events as a way of meeting the needs of the entire region.
“A lot of people think they’re inconveniencing us, but that’s not the case at all. We’re here to provide a service and that includes pitching in and promoting ourselves throughout the area,” he said.