Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), dating back to at least 2008, have consistently shown the dangers posed by distracted driving. Drivers who are busy texting, making phone calls, eating, or performing other tasks behind the wheel are more likely to cause serious injuries to other motorists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
Now, studies are showing that distracted drivers risk the lives of others in another way: by being less likely to notice an oncoming emergency vehicle or to get out of the way quickly.
Texas drivers are required to yield to police, fire, and ambulance emergency vehicles that are running lights and sirens on the roadways. The purpose of this law is to help first responders reach an emergency scene as quickly as possible. In the case of a fire, heart attack, or crime-related injury, a few seconds may mean the difference between life and death.
In several studies carried out in various states, however, researchers found that distracted drivers were less likely to notice the lights and sirens of an oncoming emergency vehicle and less likely to move out of the way or yield when the vehicle appeared. In some scenarios, fire trucks or ambulances were blocked by a distracted driver’s vehicle for up to twenty seconds.
Drivers can help reduce this problem by simply reducing the level of distraction in their vehicles. Putting away the cell phone and turning down the radio can help, as can staying alert for flashing lights or the faint sound of sirens.