If there’s one thing I don’t mess around with – it’s an ambulance with its sirens on. Mindful that one of these days it could be me or somebody for me who needs to get to the hospital without delay, I always pull over quickly. Although I have seen some people speed up ahead of the ambulance or take their own sweet time to pull over, my actions tell my children in the back seat the proper thing to do.
But last week I had to wonder whether driving behind the ambulance is something I shouldn’t do.
We were driving along a road coming back into town when we heard the ambulance with its blaring sirens. My husband pulled over to let it pass and then continued behind it at a reasonable clip. Several yards later, the ambulance pulls over and stops – we pass by and continue ahead. We attempt to pass some slower moving vehicles in front of us but traffic coming in the opposite direction kept us a little further behind than we wanted to be.
At some point the ambulance gets back into traffic, and while my husband may have noticed it from looking at his rear view mirror, I only realized it when the ambulance (minus the siren) attempted to pull alongside us instead of moving ahead. Years of driving on Antigua’s roads has allowed me to read the minds of other drivers because copious amounts of them don’t use the signal apparatuses that come with their vehicles while others do things you least expect.
So when the ambulance driver pulled up and looked through our closed window, my husband slowed down to allow her to pass, but it was immediately clear to me that she wanted to have a conversation. I urged him to turn the window down and sure enough, she warned him not to follow the ambulance otherwise she would take our license plate number and I guess report us to the police. She then sped off.
I later realized that she thought we were attempting to use the ambulance to get a clear shot back to town – which we weren’t. However, I remember the time when we ended up following the governor general’s vehicle coming from an official function and much like the slipstream experienced by cyclists following a car, the momentum allowed us to literally be home in minutes.
But this experience informs my new behaviour. I now know that when I hear an ambulance I should, besides pulling over to allow it to pass, wait a few minutes on the side of the road to make sure that there’s sufficient distance between myself and the emergency vehicle, and then ease back out into traffic at a crawl. Actually – to be on the safe side – I’ll probably try to find an alternate route or turn around and go in the opposite direction to get to my destination.
The curious stop and go of this particular ambulance driver left us with the question of whether there was anybody in the ambulance at the time, because pulling off to the side of the road for a few and then taking some more precious minutes to talk to another driver didn’t scream emergency to us. Nonetheless, these are the kinds of workers that the government should have more of – the ones who take the time to make sure that others uphold the law – busy as they are, trying to save a life.