Our Northwest

That siren sounds an awful lot like Spotify

Thursday, December 14, 2017by  Derek Wing

ambulance flashing lights.jpg"Sirens and lights, move to the right."

Seems simple enough. But ask local paramedics, firefighters, and police officers and they'll tell you it's a rare day when they don't get stuck– lights flashing, sirens wailing – behind someone who just can't seem to get out of the way.

Blame it on the music, many first responders say.

Loud music, especially with headphones, leaves drivers oblivious to what other folks can hear coming blocks away. Then, once they do notice, they're rattled. Yup, the music again. A few years ago, we reported a Canadian study that said at 95 decibels, reaction times during decision-making tasks dropped 20%.

All that makes sense given our latest PEMCO Poll. It found that nearly 9 out of 10 Washington and Oregon drivers said they DO know that slowing down, pulling right, and stopping is the correct way to get out of the way for an emergency vehicle. (Interestingly, though, fewer knew that when emergency vehicles are stopped on the shoulder, they're supposed to move left into the adjacent lane, or if that's not possible, slow down before they come within 200 feet.) The trick, apparently, is just knowing they're there.

The get-out-of-the-way takeaway? You can't react to a siren if hip-hop is rattling your windows. Less Drake. More brake.

How does your response to emergency vehicles compare with fellow Northwesterners? Read the complete PEMCO Northwest Poll, in which Seattle's FBK Research surveyed 1,200 Washington and Oregon residents. 

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