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16/10/2012
Reckless drivers make ambulances a threat Instructed Not To Speed, But Face Acute Stress
Chennai: Motorists panic when they hear an ambulance siren these days, with drivers hired by emergency services attempting to speed through crowded roads. Road users in the city say the accident on Saturday, in which a motorcycle rider died after being hit by an ambulance, was not a one-off. 
    But officials of the statesponsored GVK-EMRI 108 Emergency Response Service said Saturday’s accident was the first serious smash-up involving an ambulance in the city since the service was set up in 2008. 
    On Saturday night Saravana was riding a motorcycle and his friend Raja was riding pillion when a 108 ambulance heading back to its base knocked them down. Saravana died on the spot and Raja was rushed to hospital in another ambulance called to the spot from Koyambedu. 
    A few seconds separate life and death in an emergency and ambulance drivers, acutely aware of this, feel the stress. But EMRI officials say they tell their drivers not to speed. “It is an emergency service but since a trained paramedic gives a patient first aid in the ambulance, the drivers don’t have to drive recklessly,” said a senior official with the 108 service. 
    He said the drivers are put through a rigorous recruitment process. “Choosing the correct driver is the first step towards making sure that an emergency service saves lives,” the official said. 

    “The driver does not only have to hold a licence to drive a heavy vehicle,” said an official dealing with the fleet. “We test them for their attitude and passion for the job.” 
    He said ambulance drivers (called ‘pilots’ in the 108 service) are given training courses to keep their calm even in a tense situation. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the driver to do that all the time,” said the official. 
    Ambulance drivers are often forced to jump signals and travel on the wrong side of the road to beat the traffic. Sometimes motorists don’t give ambulances right of way. Re
cords show that ambulances are involved in about three minor accidents in the state every month. 
    Two ambulances collided in Padianallur in Thiruvallur district in June. Both vehicles were carrying patients and one them died. The man, Chocklingam, 75, had been discharged from a private hospital when an 108 ambulance carrying a pregnant woman hit the vehicle in which he was being taken home. 
    There are 75 drivers for 35 ambulances in the city and each driver attends to an average of five cases a day. 
EMERGENCY SITUATION 
Though traffic police do not maintain a separate record for accidents caused by ambulances, ‘108’ service officials say Saturday’s accident was the first major case since the facility was set up in 2008. They say on an average 3 accidents involving ambulances are reported every month. Here are some tips to reduce such accidents: 

TO MOTORISTS 
When you hear a siren or see an ambulance, leave way for it to pass Do not tail behind an ambulance to skip signals or beat the traffic, as it may lead to an accident Do not park vehicles haphazardly on road, especially at night 
TO DRIVERS 
Do not exceed 60km/hr under any circumstance While going on the wrong lane, keep to extreme right and switch on all indicators Follow traffic rules while returing to the base after dropping off a patient 

TO POLICE 
Control signals to ensure free passage for an ambulance 
Inform duty officers ahead to clear the road for the ambulance 
Train police officials to give first-aid 
NUMBER TELLS IT ALL 
NO. OF 108 AMBULANCE | 35 NO. OF AMBULANCE DRIVERS | 75 AVERAGE NO. OF TRIP A DRIVER HANDLES IN A DAY | 5 AVERAGE DISTANCE A DRIVER DRIVES IN A DAY | 20km