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NSC survey: first responders put at risk by distracted drivers

A survey conducted by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute and the National Safety Council confirms the fact that drivers, in Mississippi and across the U.S., become more distracted when passing emergency vehicles. A startling 71 percent said they take pictures or videos when passing first responders; 66 percent send an email and 60 percent post on social media about it. Eighty percent slow down to get a better look.

This was regardless of whether the emergency vehicle had slowed to make a traffic stop or to respond to a crash or fire. Thirty-three percent of respondents were not aware of "Move Over" laws although 73 percent did say that they move over to give room to emergency vehicles parked on the side of the road with their lights on. Twenty-four percent did not know of any legal requirements for passing emergency vehicles.

While 89 percent saw that distracted drivers can be an occupational hazard for first responders, only 19 percent thought that they themselves could contribute to that risk. Forty percent seemed to accept the risk as simply part of the job of being a first responder. Yet 16 first responders have been struck and killed in the first four months of 2019 alone. Crashes involving fire trucks, police cars and ambulances led to 37 deaths and over 17,000 injuries in 2013.

Those who are struck by a vehicle through no fault of their own may be able to receive damages under motor vehicle accident law. It all depends on presenting the other party's insurance company with a strong case. This is where a lawyer may come in handy. Personal injury lawyers might have a network of professionals to gather evidence, determine the extent of injuries and do much more. The lawyer may also handle negotiations for a settlement.

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