MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – You hear the sirens almost every day, but do you know what South Carolina law requires you to do? Many don't, and it could cost a life.
"Every day, almost every call, someone goes left, slams on their brakes and almost causes an accident," said Brad Wiseman, a firefighter/EMT for Horry County Fire Rescue.
We drove along with several responders in the past few weeks and we found several drivers did everything but what they're supposed to do.
"All they have to do is slow down and slowly get over to the right lane, or the shoulder - give us a place to pass on the left," said Kim Mottola, a firefighter/EMT of 19 years. "But they do everything else, it seems. I've seen accidents because they slam on their brakes. Sometimes they force us to slam on our brakes and it doesn't need to come to that."
Mottola worries that some people don't care about yielding the right of way.
"They're in such a hurry to get where they're going, they ignore us," she said. "But they need to think, it's their family member in our ambulance. Maybe that will send a message."
Janet Cox, who was in a coma for a week and now suffers from permanent vision damage after an Horry County ambulance struck her 13 years ago, says the problem may be the driver can't hear them coming.
"I don't remember what happened," she said of her 1997 crash. "I woke up in a hospital, but I did research and you can't often hear an ambulance siren when they're coming from behind you until there as close as maybe 50 yards away. Add to that how insulated the cars are now days and all the distractions - radio, texting - it's a problem."
Since Cox's crash, Horry County has changed their policies and a responder we talked to will change sirens and honk horns at intersections.
"Anything we can do - I look at driver's eyes, make sure they see me before I go through," HCFR first responder Jody Martin said.
We counted more than a dozen drivers who didn't pull over to the right or slow down on a single run to the hospital with one unit.
"This is nothing abnormal, it happens every day," Wiseman said. "It's like they just don't see us."
One truck took 15 seconds to get over, while another truck kept going through the intersection after our ambulance entered it, and countless cars went left instead of right.
"I have a lot of respect for EMS drivers and fireman," Cox said. "I think they just need to realize that people aren't always aware that they're there."
In addition to saving a life, you could also save yourself a ticket by properly yielding emergency vehicles. Failing to yield is a four-point violation on your license, and fines vary by location.