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Ambulance Crash Serves As Warning For Drivers

Created: 01/21/2014 10:49 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Over the weekend, an ambulance transporting a patient near the Twin Cities crashed head-on with an SUV.

It left one paramedic and the driver of the SUV in critical condition, and emergency responders in our area say the crash should serve as a wake-up call for everyone on the roads.

While such a violent crash involving an ambulance is rare, paramedics say all too often people don't respond to the flashing lights the way they should.

"We've had a lot of close calls,” said Amy Wollenburg, a paramedic with Gold Cross in Austin. “If we're coming up on an intersection, they could be at a stop sign or a red light or something, and they'll just whiz right in front of us without actually paying attention."

Wollenburg has been a paramedic and EMT for the past eight years, and in that time she said she's seen plenty of people move over only at the last second, or fail to give emergency vehicles enough space.

"I don't think people realize the blind spots that these big boxes create. So when somebody's driving right up next to us or super close behind us, we can't see them,” Wollenburg said. “It just causes more accidents and more havoc for us."

And of course it isn't just other drivers that can cause problems, but the roads themselves.

Forced to go out in even the worst of conditions, paramedics say those big ambulances aren't as stable on the roads as you might think.

"They don't handle well in ice or snow at all, so any jimmying of the steering wheel could throw us into a couple loops and then we're in trouble,” Wollenburg said. “We just drive with due regard and hope the people around us do that as well."