CRUCIAL minutes lost due to motorists impeding ambulances to and from emergency sites have almost certainly cost lives, according to ambulance industry insiders.
A general lack of knowledge is being blamed for the alarmingly common failure of motorists to properly respond to ambulances trying to negotiate traffic in order to reach an accident scene in the quickest possible time.
While poor education about alighting to the left shoulder of the road or driving in the left lane in the case of such an emergency is clearly a factor, ignorance and self-interest has also been blamed.
“Motorists will in majority always swiftly make way for a police vehicle but many aren’t so giving when it comes to an approaching ambulance with its siren on, clearly indicating an emergency,” one St John Ambulance employee said.
“This, to me, indicates a selfish attitude in certain cases. If the consequences of poor response are not related directly to them, motorists often seem to be less willing to take the necessary steps to ensure a smooth path for the ambulance.
“This sort of response and the delay it causes has certainly cost crucial time, and, therefore, lives sin the past. And it probably will again.”
St John PNG chief commissioner Douglas Kelson blamed a general lack of education, rather than more sinister motives, as the main reason for the lack of response of motorists when not responding to an approaching ambulance.
“The basic problem is lack of knowledge of what to do when an ambulance has flashing red lights and a siren on,” Mr Kelson said.
“The message that needs to get across is that vehicles must move to the left side of the road to allow the ambulance to pass. In general road driving, drivers should be educated to drive in the left lane and to left side of the road. That said, road manners in PNG are very poor.”
Ambulance service superintendent Rosemary Waya, agreed.
“Drivers are slowly becoming more aware of what is required, but greater education and publicity about the problem is still needed,” she said.
“Even at emergency sites where people are hysterical, there is still strong respect for the ambulance workers. And respect from motorists is slowly increasing. Poor road conditions also make it hard for motorists to immediately respond at times.
“But certainly, more awareness is needed to help our drivers reach an accident as soon as possible.”
Dr John Mua of MVIL, who will initiate a national road safety campaign next month, said the problem was one of many concerning a lack of road awareness in PNG.