Kerala

Applying brakes on ambulance misuse

With instances of ambulance misuse on the rise, the Motor Vehicles Department is set to introduce a multi-level mechanism aimed at regulating inappropriate practices and preventing accidents. Cashing in on the COVID-19 situation, many drivers have reportedly been misusing the privilege to navigate heavy traffic. As per statistics, ambulances fall into the top four categories of vehicles that cause accidents.

"Kollam will be the first district in the State to implement regulatory measures and the enforcement team has started working on it. We decided to crack the whip after a recent accident in which two persons lost their lives due to negligent driving by an ambulance driver," says T C Vinesh, Joint Transport Commissioner (Enforcement).

In the first phase of the programme, traffic enforcement officials will focus on data collection to gather a clear idea about ambulances operating in each area. "Earlier, emergency services were handled by experienced drivers, but now any license-holder can drive an ambulance. Since the job requires a certain level of social commitment and civic sense, we plan to conduct training sessions for drivers and issue them certification to operate," says A.K. Dilu, RTO (Enforcement), Kollam.

Rash driving

Since launching the exercise, it was noted that many drivers indulge in rash driving, disregarding the norms, while some vehicles also lack proper documents. "In their attempt to save one life, they risk the safety and well being of several others and this cannot be encouraged. In some cases, the vehicles are not equipped to be driven at such high speeds,” says Mr. Dilu.

After receiving reports about ambulance drivers turning on beacon lights and siren for non-emergency situations, Enforcement officials upped surveillance. "Ever since we started monitoring, the use of siren has come down considerably, especially on the Kollam bypass. There is no need to use siren and lights if you are transporting a dead body or dropping a COVID-19 patient at a first-line treatment centre," he says.

Since it is difficult to trace violators on the job, the department plans to make logbook entries mandatory, while another proposal mooted is police clearance certificate from drivers. Drivers typically put forth the argument that they were rushing to attend emergencies and there is no system in place to confirm such claims.

"Drivers of unoccupied ambulances often claim they are on the way to pick up a patient, but they can actually be running errands with the lights and siren on. We have instructed them to make detailed logbook entries after completing each trip. These will be cross-checked against hospital records. Action will be taken against discrepancies," adds Mr. Dilu.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 1:50:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/applying-brakes-on-ambulance-misuse/article34006545.ece

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