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27 Investigates: Life or death traffic

Medical emergencies can be a life or death situation.

When you call for an ambulance, you expect it to arrive as soon as possible.

However, paramedics say getting to an emergency call is often a challenge, because of other drivers who simply ignore the lights and sirens around them.

When the call comes for paramedics at Fire Station 8 in Lexington, they know every second counts, but delays are everywhere, because of other drivers.

"A lot of truck drivers, they kind of, pretty much stay focused on what they're doing and get kind of blindsided by the siren," Paramedic Keith Powell said.

Powell has been with the department for 20 years. He says people might be surprised how long it takes for drivers to yield to emergency vehicles.

In most situations, Powell says there's a simple rule.

"If you see the lights, pull to the right," Powell said.

As firefighters, they're trained to know that a fire doubles in size every minute, but as medical professionals, they know once a patient's heart is stopped for four minutes, brain death begins. That makes every delay a potential killer.

With two years on the job, Emergency Medical Technician Justin May is about to begin his more advanced paramedic training.

For now, driving is a critical part of his job, and on the way to the hospital, while the paramedics are in back with a patient, May is his own navigator too.

"This person hasn't even noticed us yet, and we're coming right up on him," May said as he pointed out a driver to 27 NEWSFIRST while on a recent run. "So I'll just give him a little tap, and they may or may not hear, like they haven't heard it yet. Now he's just... he's on the phone. You can tell. There he goes."

Someday, the person in the back of an ambulance, or the person waiting for it to arrive could be someone you love, so paramedics ask that you clear a path and pay attention.

"A lot of times people just freeze up, and they'll look in their rear view mirror, and they'll just panic and stop instead of just yielding to us. Check both sides, left and right, and then try to get out of our way," Powell said.

Firefighters also remind drivers that if you've pulled over, and the emergency vehicle has passed you, make sure all is clear before you pull back into traffic.

Another emergency vehicle could be following the first one.


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