On October 9th, a ladder truck from the Cleveland Division of Fire was returning from a call when it was hit by a car. The woman driving the car was pronounced dead on the scene, and the force of the collision was enough to eject a car seat from the from the vehicle; thankfully, no child was in the seat at the time. According to Fox 8 Cleveland, “Investigators reconstructed the crash to help determine exactly what happened. Police said they believe the woman was driving faster than the posted 25 mile-per-hour speed limit when she crossed the center line and hit the fire truck.” One firefighter was taken to the hospital.
This was the second accident between a car and a CDF truck; a few hours earlier, on October 8th, a different ladder truck was blocking off an accident when a car struck it. In that collision, no one was injured, and no further details were given about that crash.
Ohio’s laws regarding emergency vehicles
Under the law, Ohio considers these to be “public safety vehicles:”
- Cop cars (including vehicles by local/municipal, state or federal officers)
- Fire trucks and vehicles used by volunteers
- EMS/EMTS trucks/vans
Anyone driving an emergency or public safety vehicle may pass through an intersection (including those with red lights) when he or she is responding to an emergency situation. They may also use “portable preemption signal devices” when responding to an emergency, which change the sequence of traffic lights, creating a “green” where there was one a red. In fact, public safety vehicles are exempt from almost every traffic law in Ohio, as long as the driver is “responding to an emergency call, is equipped with and displaying at least one flashing, rotating, or oscillating light visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of five hundred feet to the front of the vehicle and if the driver of the vehicle is giving an audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle, or bell,” though “This section does not relieve the driver of an emergency vehicle or public safety vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons and property upon the highway.”
Of course, we want our emergency vehicles to be able to clear a path to the hospital or the scene of a crime, and to get to whomever needs them – but this can sometimes create confusion on the roadways. That is why, once a driver hears the signal or sees the flashing light, he or she must be aware of where the vehicle is, and yield the right of way. If a fire truck, ambulance, police car or other emergency vehicle is behind you on any road, or traveling in the opposite direction towards you on a one-lane roadway, you should immediately pull to the right to get out of the way. If one of these vehicles is approaching an intersection, but you would normally have the right of way, proceed slowly so the emergency vehicle can cross through an intersection.
Emergency services cannot behave recklessly, because the safety of other drivers is one of their priorities. But they are given leeway in following the rules when responding to a fire or a call, and as such, we must be on guard when we share the road with them.
Crandall & Pera Law is a premier personal injury firm serving clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky. To learn more about our services, or to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Ohio truck accident lawyer, please call 877-686-8879 or fill out our contact form. You can reach out Kentucky attorneys at 877-686-8879.