INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Jeff Petri is in the business of saving lives. For 12 years, he's been a firefighter and paramedic with the Washington Township Avon Fire Department.
But more and more, he says the challenge isn't only the emergency that's calling him. Sometimes it's just getting there.
"I think anybody who does this for any amount of time, at some point, has people pull out in front of you, or they panic and jam on their brakes and you try not to run over the top of them," he said.
Petri says these days, too many drivers are too distracted to see his emergency vehicle coming – despite the flashing lights and blaring siren.
"Obviously texting and driving is a huge issue," he said. "We see the effects of that all the time. And then the same old thing – messing with the stereo, messing with kids – it's just multiple distractions in the car and it's just a growing trend that's pretty concerning."
Jerry Bessler, the department's EMS division chief, says the biggest problem is drivers who don't yield to them.
"We're seeing it more and more today than we have ever seen it," said Bessler. "Time counts. Time matters. And if we can't get to someone in time, in a timely fashion, we're delaying care for that person."
Bessler said the proper thing to do when drivers see an emergency vehicle approaching is to pull over to the right.
They said not paying attention can also cause crashes. Authorities say the risk is reduced when everyone slows down and pays attention.
"The best advice is just like they leaned in drivers education: pay attention and keep aware of your surroundings," said Petri. "I get in the habit of putting my phone in the door compartment in the opposite side where I can't reach it when I drive and I'm not tempted to reach for it. It works for me."
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