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News | Oct. 26, 2009

To the right

By Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross 3rd Wing Public Affairs

Recently some of the Elmendorf emergency vehicles have had problems with motorists not yielding to the right when the vehicles have their emergency lights on. 

Most of the 30-35 emergency calls the 3rd Medical Group receive a month take an average of 10 minutes for teams to arrive on scene, said Staff Sgt. Nathan Stanfield, 3rd Medical Operation Squadron medic. 

He and other ambulance drivers frequently have had an issue with vehicles not yielding to the right when they come down the road using flashing lights and sirens blaring. 

"Most runs we make, cars do not pull over. They'll stay in front of us or they'll stop directly in front of us forcing us to go around them," said Stanfield. "This causes a lot of problems for us because it puts us in situations that make us take risks, we shouldn't have to take." 

Stanfield gave an example by saying they're going down a two-lane street and there is no one in the right lane, but the people in the left lane won't move. This then forces them to take the right lane, which puts them in jeopardy if someone correctly yields into the right line. This could cause a collision, and delay emergency teams arrival to the emergency scene. 

Tech. Sgt. Keith Hinther, 3rd MDOS medic, has been at Elmendorf for three years and said he has seen more incidents of motorists failing to yield here, than at his other assignments. He feels it's a lack of knowledge from people that don't know they are required to yield to the right when approached by an emergency vehicle. 

Stanfield said that if someone has a heart attack and there is somebody there within 10 minutes to give them cardiopulmonary resuscitation and shock them with a heart defibulator that their chances diminish significantly. Their chance of survival and full recovery drops every minute after 10. So every minute spent in traffic by emergency teams could be fatal for that patient. 

Failure of yielding to the right is also going against state law and wing regulations. Under 3rd Wing Instruction 31-204 Base Traffic Code, if a person fails to yield to the right of an emergency vehicle then they can be given a Uniform Code of Military Justice DD Form 1408 ticket with six points added to their Elmendorf driving record. It only takes 12 points in 12 months to have driving privileges on Elmendorf suspended for a year. 

Civilians can be given a citation, fined $250 and have six points added to their license using the Alaska traffic laws. 

"What we want to get across is what if it's your child or wife in the back," said Hinther. "By making us wait in traffic because people won't yield to the right, it's taking away time that could be spent providing medical attention."