by Beth Hillyer
(KHNL) Are you an Ambulance Buster? One of those drivers who doesn't get out of the way or is too busy talking on the phone to even notice the red lights and hear the siren coming from behind you?
KHNL News 8's Beth Hillyer rides along in an ambulance during Oahu's rush hour and finds Ambulance Busters could mean the difference between life and death.
The crew of the centrally located Metro One gets a call to respond to 1805 Owawa Street. Paramedic Don Takara replies, "Metro One Responding."
Takara checks the map and buckles up.
There is a huge delay at the very first intersection. Takara has the green light but two cars run the red light. E-M-S Chief Patty Dukes explains, "We have determined this is a life threatening event, somebody is having difficulty breathing, having chest pain, unconscious, they have severe hemorrhaging, these are truly time life priority calls need to get to the patient as quickly and safely as possible."
Some are slow to yield. Most get out of the way, but a driver appears to panic and slams on the brakes.
Dukes tells drivers, "When you do see an ambulance first thing you don't do is panic and come to a screeching halt where you are."
On the freeway, a taxi doesn't budge so Takara is forced to go around.
Time and time again, possibly distracted drivers are slow to respond.
Another person panics. first the brakes, then their turn signal. but they don't budge.
Seconds later, more hesitation. And instead of moving out of the way, brake lights cost the crew precious seconds.
When they pull up to the house of the emergency Takara yells out, "Bring the trauma bag. Metro One at scene."
Paramedics want us all to pay attention
Honolulu Paramedic Don Takara recalls, "There have been cases where people pull in front of the ambulance. They dart in front and the medic has to stop and the medic in the back gets hurt."
A crushed ambulance is the worst case scenario. One has been totalled because a distracted driver ran into it.
On another call, the rig gets stuck at crowded intersections on South King Street. Those blocking the way react slowly. With no where to go, the one in the middle has to wait until the first car moves forward.
E-M-S Chief Patty Dukes reports more and more drivers tailgating, "Then we have the people behind us who try to draft behind the back of the ambulance because ho man I got a free ride through this traffic I am going to get where I want to go a lot faster. That is not only illegal, it is dangerous."
They will call police and you could get a ticket.
"If you are right behind us and we have to make a sudden stop you are going to be right in our back door you are going to injure the paramedic, injure patient and injure yourself," says Dukes.
Medic Patty Dukes wants you to remember. "We use lights and sirens seriously for very serious reasons, we're using it as a true lifesaving measure."