The City of Houston says that Houston Fire Department ambulances were involved in almost 300 car accidents over the last two years. KHOU 11 News installed cameras on one ambulance to find out just how big the problem is. According to ambulance drivers as well as the camera footage, Houston drivers are the biggest problem.
Although motorists traveling in front of ambulances may cause accidents, the real problem is ambulance chasing. As an ambulance responds to a call and speeds down the road, motorists try to take advantage of the path that suddenly opens up in the roadway and end up following too closely behind the ambulance. As a result, ambulance drivers are unable to see the motorists traveling behind them in their mirrors.
The cameras captured several motorists settling in behind the ambulance as it responded to emergency calls. On each occasion, the tailing only stopped because the ambulance can run the red light and the other vehicles cannot. The cameras revealed that ambulance chasing is most problematic on the freeway where motorists are already traveling at a high rate of speed.
According to Brent Mosley, a Houston Fire Department Ambulance Driver, “most people don’t do what they are supposed to. I’m not sure if they don’t know the law or if they just go into panic mode.” Drivers are required to stay at least 500 feet from the emergency vehicle. Mosley says that part of the problem is vision and distance. The box shape of the ambulance makes it difficult for ambulance drivers to see anything behind the ambulance even at 100 feet. Mosley offers this advice to drivers: “Just stay back. Don’t try and follow us.”