By Tiffany Pelt - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Lubbock paramedics respond to almost a hundred 911 calls a day, and with local drivers and construction nightmares serving as road blocks, every second counts.
Paramedic Leslie Leatherwood has been in EMS for seven years, and has been driving ambulances for four. "We've got a million things going on in this truck all at once and it can definitely be a sensory overload at times. The last thing we want to be thinking about is what the car in front of us going to do," said Leatherwood.
Leatherwood said he's had some close calls, but thankfully hasn't been in any accidents. "Trying to stop an ambulance on a dime doesn't work all the time, there's been many times we've had to swerve to avoid the ones that stop in the middle of the road," he said.
When the lights are flashing and the horns are blaring, the last thing a driver needs to do is brake in front of an ambulance. Instead, drivers are cautioned to slow down and safely move to the right without blocking intersections or turning lanes. If drivers cannot move out of the way safely, they're urged to stay put and the ambulance will find a safe route around.
But Leatherwood said he often sees people not moving over when they can. After getting a call, Leatherwood got onto I-27 where a semi and travel trailer failed to yield the right away. He said he has the most problems getting on and off the Interstate and Loop 289 because people don't slow down.
Construction isn't helping either. "University right now from the Loop to 82nd is just a nightmare, especially at 5 o'clock there's one lane of traffic both ways and it's nearly impossible to get through there," said Leatherwood.
EMS maps out where there's construction, and for places like University, another ambulance is stationed closer to help with the response time. "Time is everything to us, if we can't get there in a timely fashion then there's not any reason for you to call 911," he said.
It takes paramedics under six minutes to respond to 90% of the calls. But when vehicles fail to move, lives are on the line. "It's a 50/50 chance, you know, what is that car going to do in front, it can be a risky game sometimes," said Leatherwood.
Penalties for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle include a citation with a price tag of $152.
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