A Charleston County EMS ambulance had a difficult time getting through a Mount Pleasant intersection Tuesday morning.
Video recorded shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday morning shows the ambulance trying to cross Johnnie Dodds Boulevard from Matthis Ferry Road to Houston Northcutt Boulevard.
But drivers going in both directions disregard the ambulance’s lights and sirens.
The video shows approximately 10 vehicles crossing in front of the ambulance instead of stopping to yield right of way, which Mount Pleasant Police Inspector Chip Googe says the law requires.
Section 56-5-2360 of state law addresses the requirement to yield to an emergency vehicle:
Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of an audible signal meeting the requirements of Section 56-5-4970 and visual signals meeting the requirements of Section 56-5-4700, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal or visual signal, the driver of every other vehicle traveling along a two-lane roadway shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible, to the right hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer. A driver of a vehicle traveling along a multi-lane roadway shall yield the right-of-way and shall remain in, or move to a location that allows the emergency vehicle or police vehicle to pass safely, except as otherwise directed by a police officer.
While it may be surprising to some who see the video, it’s not all that unusual to EMS personnel.
“We see this behavior daily, which is why we proceed with caution at intersections,” Charleston County spokesman Shawn Smetana said. “It is a constant issue to educate the public to pull to the right and stop when they see lights and hear sirens.”
The video was taken during heavier-than-normal traffic in Mount Pleasant caused by an emergency closure of the westbound lanes of the Wando Bridge. SCDOT officials closed that portion of the bridge after discovering a snapped cable.
“Charleston County EMS has placed additional units in the East Cooper to help assist emergency response during the closure of the bridge,” Smetana said.
The ambulance slowed to wait for drivers who failed to yield the right-of-way to clear so it could safely pass, something Smetana says is how county drivers are trained to proceed through a busy intersection.
Viewers responded to the video on Facebook Tuesday morning.
“If you or your family are on the other side of that call, you want them there ASAP. Give your fellow human the same respect,” one wrote.
“Proves that most think their time is more valuable than others. It’s the root cause for many accidents and it’s shameful,” another said.
Googe said drivers caught failing to yield right-of-way to an emergency vehicle face a fine of $128.75.
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