Crash spurs P.A. police to change response policy
PRINCE ALBERT — The Prince Albert PoliceServicehasimplementedanewemergency response policy after a recent call for service left one of its officers slightly injured and a police vehicle written off.
City police Staff Sgt. Bill Chow says the new policy calls on officers to wait until drivers have safely moved to the right or stopped their vehicle before trying to pass them. The policy comes after a local officer crashed a police car while responding to a call on Dec. 2.
The vehicle the officer was driving hit a light standard at a downtown intersection as the officer attempted to get around other drivers at high speeds. The officer received medical attention after the powder in the car’s airbag irritated her skin and the vehicle, worth about $23,000, was written off.
Getting drivers to pull over for emergency vehicles has become an issue in Prince Albert, Chow added. A lack of education about the rules of the road and driver distraction are two reasons for the problem, he said.
Still, trying to manoeuvre around drivers poses a risk to officers and affects emergency response times.
“There’s always that chance of an accident occurring,” Chow noted.
“At the end of the day, we have to respond and arrive at a call in a timely fashion.”
Local firefighters have also encountered problem drivers when responding to emergencies, said Prince Albert fire Chief Les Karpluk. Karpluk himself was involved in an accident several years ago when the fire truck he was in was struck as it went through a city intersection.
Firefighters are keenly aware of other drivers and have to anticipate their reactions when responding to calls for emergency service, Karpluk said. Some drivers simply panic when faced with screaming sirens and flashing lights in their rear-view mirrors.
“It’s not just going to the call, we want to get there,” he said.
Fire officials have taken extra measures to help protect against inattentive drivers. A fire truck purchased two years ago has been equipped with a special siren that drivers will not only hear but feel as it races to a call.
The siren, added to the truck at a cost of $1,000, sends out a special vibration to alert drivers. It’s a small price to insure firefighters stay safe on the road, Karpluk added.
Chow said the police service will start a number of new public education initiatives during the next few months on traffic safety in emergencies. Driver training programs teach new drivers how to respond to emergency vehicles, but Chow said even those who have been on the road for a while could use a refresher course.