There need to be rules in place to ensure that ambulances have the right of way on our roads

It is common to see ambulances stuck in city traffic. Athough most vehicle users realise the need to make way for ambulances, it is really regrettable that there are drivers who do not have the good sense to do so.

They either go along with the vehicle or try to overtake (thus hindering its speed), or tail the ambulance to reach their destination faster. Ultimately, ambulance drivers have a tough task in taking patients to hospitals on time.

The other day, I was with my friend in an ambulance during peak hours, as we were shifting her father, who was critically ill, to a hospital in the city. The ambulance driver was trying his best to avoid traffic congestion by taking the side roads. However, certain thoroughfares could not be avoided, and in one junction, the traffic police was kind enough to help us cross the signal. But, the vehicle was held up in another area due to heavy traffic, despite the blaring sirens. We waited helplessly; it took more than half an hour for the vehicles to move, and we managed to reach the hospital before it was too late.

Lesson? Every time we see an ambulance speeding, each one's thought should be, ‘What if one of my family members was in that vehicle?' This, in itself, will improve self-regulation while driving, and good sense will prevail.

It is also high time the Government thought of special lanes for emergency service vehicles, which is the norm followed in most developed countries. While considering this, the Government should also work on other options without delay.

The convoy example

One such alternative would be similar to a VIP convoy, where, the traffic police gets prior information and the road is cleared for the convoy to pass by without hindrance. Similarly, a system could be developed, whereby there is co-ordination between the traffic police and ambulance operators, especially during peak hours at busy junctions. Information about the shifting of a patient from one area to the hospital could be conveyed in advance, and traffic cleared accordingly to ensure the patient is taken to hospital within the ‘Golden Hour'. This would mean saving precious time, and faster access to services that might save hundreds of lives.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries, contact 24914358/24460387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)