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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Give way to ambulance - Take left, wait and allow it to pass on !!

The roads of Chennai are often referred as killing fields with so many accidents getting reported – with some stretches like Tambaram, far off Manali, OMR, ECR  – becoming notorious for the no. of accidents and the casualties. People drive mad, often without control.  Most driver lack; are not aware or do not care to have - the road sense, road discipline, respecting signals and road rules, respecting the other road users, allowing elderly, small and disabled to cross the roads – all these are missing. At every signal, you  can spot vehicles jumping the signals or driving faster when the signal has already closed.  There are fools, [even owning some costly cars] who drive faster behind the ambulance, when the ambulance somehow wades its way through.

Struck in the Chennai traffic, you hear the siren – that of an ambulance – many a times, wonder what to do – feeling helpless – with no space to move.  Many would try to show off their travels stating that emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines, would move on designated lane without losing time in foreign countries.  Chennai, like any other Indian city lacks road width and most roads are congested allowing no place to move.   When we hear the siren of an ambulance, we should always move to the left and come to a complete stop.  Stop and do not move till the ambulance finds it was and surges through, irrespective of honking vehicles and overtaking vehicles.  At signal, if ambulance asks for way from behind, move front, move to left and stop……………and never tailgate an ambulance – it is no heroism, rank foolishness and idiotic.

In a city where accident statistics are alarming, the  good thing that happened is ‘108 free ambulance service’ – the farsighted initiative of Ramalinga Raju and now operated by the  Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project,  the nodal agency that sponsors the 108 emergency response service along with GVK-EMRI, which is a private partner. It is one social intervention that has resulted in literally saving lives by attending to accident / ailment victims in the 'golden hour' when safe and knowledgeable transportation is critical. The city’s utilisation of 108 has been increasing but emergency care managers say the ambulances were mostly sought for accident cases as against pregnancies and other emergencies like chest pain.  People can avail the services for accidents, pregnancy, chest pain, medical emergency including respiratory problems, oral poisoning, insect, snake and animal bites.

Today, there is a nice article in Times of India – ‘Regulating Speed Of Ambulances Cuts Accidents,  but Drivers And Other Road Users Need A Crash Course To Save More Lives’
Lights flashing and siren blaring, the 108 emergency management crew are trying not to lose the golden hour: They're trying to get the patient in the ambulance to hospital in time for doctors to be able to save him, navigating through the sea of traffic that surrounds the vehicle. But the ambulance driver can't step on the gas and rush to the hospital. Emergency Management and Research Institute modified vehicles to reduce their speed to 65kmh after it lost two of its emergency management technicians in road accidents involving speeding ambulances last June. Earlier that year, ambulances fatally knocked down four road users.

The driver's dashboard - unlike ambulances in developed countries that have displays of real-time patient flow data, which systems relay to hospitals, and of hospital information like emergency ward data information - only has a simple public address system. This makes speed even more imperative, but EMRI officials say they cannot compromise on the safety of their crews or other road users. They commissioned automobile engineers to install pump controls that restrict the flow of fuel to the ambulance engines and reduce their engine power so they do not exceed 65kmph. However, the officials made exceptions for four-wheel drive vehicles used in hilly terrain. The speed restriction is already showing results, says EMRI head of marketing and hospital relations Prabhudoss B. “There has been a drop in the number of accidents in the past year,“ he said. “The overall accident rate fell from 18.3% in 2013 to 15.6% in 2014.There has also been a drastic drop in major accidents and much less damage to vehicles.“

Most drivers are happy with the speeding limitation. They say following traffic rules has reduced the stress they face. “We have right of way and, during peak hours, police permit us to use the wrong side of the road if needed, or to jump signals or lanes” ambulance driver D Dharamraj said. “When we used to speed on empty roads in the past there was always the possibility of a pedestrian suddenly attempting to cross the road or other vehicles appearing in our path. Driving now is a lot more relaxed.”

The speed cap has disadvantages. The average time it takes for an ambulance crew take a patient to a hospital from the time they receive an emergency call has increased by at least 3 minutes to a current average of 1 hour and 10 minutes. But EMRI officials say they have increased the number of ambulances in their fleet and infrastructure for the paramedics to help patients to counter the increase in time. “We start first aid in the ambulance,“ paramedic Sumitha S said. “In some cases, we connect with trauma and emergency care personnel at the nearest hospital."

EMRI statistics show that their service has more beneficiaries than ever and the average number of deaths on ambulances has dropped. “Giving away the right to speed was a bold step. But we are happy to see good results,“ Prabhudoss said.

Here is the infographic ~ when you hear the siren, some move left, some move right and ambulance finds zigzag route.  Vehicles must move to their left, come to a standstill, make passage in the right side – allow the ambulance to pass – and never, never rush after the emergency vehicle.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

17th Mar 2015.

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