TIME TO BE CONSIDERATE: Ken Clark and other emergency workers are suffering fatigue from Eastern Bay drivers pleading ignorance when it comes to sharing the road. Photo Troy Baker D9074-10

FLASHING lights and sirens seem to be not enough for Eastern Bay drivers and emergency workers say they are tired of them failing to understand basic etiquette.

Many have publicly criticised how we share our roads, including civilians online stating that it’s not the roads causing accidents, it’s the drivers.

Volunteer Fire Brigade officer in charge Ken Clark recalls an incident recently where a car was travelling at speed and flipped on Mokorua Hill towards Ohope Beach.

As cars continued to zip around the sensitive crash site, despite the obvious signals of an accident, emergency services struggled to keep the scene safe.

“The man was in a state of concussion and so he could have easily walked out onto the road,” said Mr Clark.

“We have to protect the scene but then we’ve got to look out for our own safety.

“When you’ve got people driving well over the speed limit it’s crazy and at the end of the day slowing down to 20m km per hour shouldn’t be a big deal.”

According to St John Eastern Bay territory manager Richard Waterson, this instance is far more common than most would expect.

TOTALLED: Cars continued to zip past this crash site on Mokorua’s Gorge Road last month, making it difficult for emergency services to keep the scene safe. File photo

“We are taught to use our vehicle as a shield and as people drive past, they’re trying to see what’s going on, and then they run the risk of causing an accident themselves.

“People go through crash sites far too quickly,” Mr Waterson said.

The Land Transport Act states that a driver must not exceed 20 kilometres per hour after passing a warning sign advising of an accident, breakdown, crash, emergency, or fire but these rules continue to fall on deaf ears.

Mr Clark said it was getting worse, especially when people were “rubber-necking” past crash sites.

Now retired Eastern Bay road policing officer in charge Ray Wylie said through his 26-and-a-half years of policing and adept experience with road policing especially, he had seen an attitude shift in the way people used the road.

“From what I’ve seen in the past few years, there is a changing attitude to driving … I see poor driving standards and poor decision making.”

Slowing down emergency vehicles by not paying attention to signals could be life or death for some and Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick said the unfortunate reality was that poor road etiquette was far too common.

“Unfortunately, this happens all the time. Lights and sirens are flashing and sometimes that’s not enough to get the attention of some drivers.

“For the most part it’s a lot of people just not looking in their mirrors and not paying attention. You’d think the lights would be enough, but they are often not,” Mr Fenwick said.

Mr Waterson said people not checking their rear-vision mirrors was a massive contributor to drivers not seeing approaching emergency vehicles.

“The rear vision mirror in people’s cars is not just where you can hang your fluffy dice, they’re there to be used.”

Not stopping, pulling over or slowing down for emergency service vehicles with flashing lights is a ticketable offence and if there is time for police to enforce the $150 infringement notice they will.

However, time is scarce in an emergency so drivers continue to get off Scott-free.

“Usually it’s not something we can deal with and in an ideal world you could pull them over and stop them but we’re on our way to an emergency,” Mr Fenwick said.

“There is nothing more frustrating than when you’re trying to get to something life or death and people are driving like idiots and don’t pull over or don’t see you.

“If it was their daughter being raped or their house being broken in to I’m sure they’d want you to get there as soon as you could.”

Police and other emergency services block off scenes, but impatient drivers go out of their way to push past, which, according to Mr Fenwick, is the result of absent common sense.

“On crash scenes we’ve shut our roads off for a reason and that’s because it isn’t safe.

“People are driving around police cars on footpaths to get around us. It’s just a total lack of common sense from people.

“We don’t block roads to inconvenience people we do it for a reason,” he said.

At the end of the day it comes down to being aware of the rules and sharing the road safely.

“People need to exercise a bit of judgment and common sense when it comes down to it, pass us safely and pull over if you see flashing lights behind you,” Mr Clark said.

hazel.osborne@thebeacon.co.nz