Yesterday, on Facebook, Daily Tribune reported an accident on Macapagal Boulevard in which an ambulance was hit by a Hyundai Elantra that had apparently beat the red light. As if by design, it was also yesterday when an article produced by Agence France-Presse about the challenges faced by Philippine ambulances came out. The title? “Patients die as Manila traffic jams block ambulances.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Gridlock in Manila is costing lives as ambulances stuck in traffic face severe delays in the race against the clock to reach the city’s hospitals, medics warn. Special lanes for emergency vehicles are not enforced, the infrastructure is outdated, and local drivers are often unwilling or unable to make way—a situation experts say is causing patients to die en route.
Incidentally, we were consulted for that piece. First and foremost, we pointed out that due to the sheer volume of motor vehicles on the road right now, drivers are often not able to give way to ambulances even if they want to.
But this particular article of ours isn’t about those drivers who can’t do anything about traffic congestion—it’s about those who are able to make way for emergency medical vehicles but stubbornly refuse to.
You see, there are many motorists out there who don’t stop or pull to the side to give way to an ambulance, and there are two kinds of them. The first don’t do so because they’re ignorant: They literally have no idea that one has to let an ambulance through at all costs. That’s sad. The second refuse to do it because they’re generally cynical: They think that most emergency or “for official use only” vehicles are driven by dishonest drivers who just want to get ahead of everyone even in non-emergency situations. That’s sadder.
Guys, it is not up to us to speculate whether an ambulance is empty or not. The presence of an ambulance is always a potential life-and-death scenario. Think of it this way: If you let an ambulance pass and it turns out it isn’t carrying a patient in critical condition, you only get inconvenienced by no more than 10 seconds. If you deliberately block an ambulance and it does have a patient inside, said patient could die. You don’t want that on your conscience.
Another thing many Pinoy motorists do when they see an ambulance? They give way and then tailgate the emergency vehicle in an attempt to take advantage of the clear path that the ambulance will be creating. Please don’t do this. This is very dangerous. An ambulance isn’t being driven in a normal manner. It is allowed to run above the speed limit, go against the flow of traffic, and disregard traffic lights. Regular vehicles are not. If you chase an ambulance, there’s a good chance you could hit another car or, worse, the ambulance itself. Just stop it.
Anyway, that AFP story is a nice little wake-up call. We private motorists may not be able to do something about the daily gridlock that we encounter, but we can always choose to drive with alertness, courtesy and kindness. The patient an ambulance is transporting could be someone dear to us.