Rush To Danger: I-Team rides along with first responders
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - When you see the sirens--move over. It's a simple law but many first responders say drivers are ignoring the safety rule, putting their lives and first responder’s lives in danger. The Newschannel 3 I-Team recently rode along with a local fire department to see what it’s like rushing to danger.
The “Move Over” law is top of mind in West Michigan as first responders continue to mourn the loss of Comstock Township Fire Chief Ed Switalski. Police are continuing their investigation to see exactly what happened but many firefighters say what happened to Ed is their worst fear.
Rick Nason is the battalion chief for the Portage Fire Department. His department responds to fire calls all across Portage but they’re also responsible for six miles of Interstate 94 and US 131.
Nason has been helping people as a firefighter since 1989 but even the most seasoned veterans have worries.
“The highway is the place I fear the most,” says Nason.
His reasoning is simple.
“People are always in a hurry, they're distracted,” says Nason.
Those distractions can be deadly. The firefighting community learning this first hand when Chief Ed Switalski was killed in June.
“It’s just shocking what happened and how it happened,” says Nason.
Switalski was on the side of interstate 94 assisting a driver when police say another driver went around the safety barriers striking Switalski.
“It was a big loss for our community,” says Nason.
As the Newschannel 3 I-Team rode along with Mason toward a fire on Interstate 94, some drivers tried to beat the truck while others darted through intersections.
Once on the interstate, it's Nason's job to set up a barrier.
“We have to keep traffic flowing to make sure we don't have those secondary accidents and I can't get too close to the fire truck and I can't stay too far back,” says Nason.
This time around, traffic slowing down with most drivers following orders but that's not always the case.
Near misses happen often like when a Wyoming police officer was hit while assisting a driver back in February. Another “near miss” happening in 2013 when a Michigan State Trooper was hit on Interstate 94. Both officers survived the crashes but not everyone is so lucky.
Nason says the message is simple.
“Move over to the right,” he says. “If you move over to the right and stop, we know where you're going and what you're doing and it helps us respond and get there quickly.”
Drivers are required to move over for police and fire vehicles, ambulances, wreckers and road services workers. If you violate the law, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and get four points in your license. If your violation leads to the injury or death of a police officer or emergency response personnel, you can spend up to 15 years behind bars.
As for the Switalksi crash, police are still investigating to see if the driver face any charges. We’re told investigators are still waiting for toxicology reports before making any decisions.