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Oh. My. Gawd.

I'm all about a smooth ride in the ambulance. Driving fast and running lights and sirens only saves you an average of 30 seconds or so in the city, anyway, so I tell all my partners that I'd much prefer slow, smooth and safe to rapid, rough and reckless.

And my partner last week may well have been the smoothest driver I've ever had. You could barely feel the road when he drove.

Of course, it's easy to be smooth when you drive at the approximate speed of tectonic shift. Dude didn't need a speedometer, he needed a calendar. I finally told him to just keep the lights and siren off, because when you're driving substantially below the speed limit and angry old folks are passing you on their Rascal scooters, flipping you off as they whiz past you in the breakdown lane, what's the point?

It wasn't just the driving, either. Dude moves at the blistering pace of a geriatric sloth with a Xanax habit. On one call, a wreck, I told him to follow behind me with the spine board and stretcher. I had assessed the patient, listened to her tell me she wasn't injured and didn't want an ambulance, written down her demographic information, had the refusal form signed and witnessed and was on my way back to the rig before he got the stretcher unloaded. He even looked disappointed slowly; it didn't so much flash across his face as it did a slow melt. I was back in the rig and massaging my temples before he got his frown fixed into place.

I never thought I could find something more mentally stressing than having a speed demon as a partner, but this came close. Halfway through the first shift, I had to quit stomping the imaginary accelerator on my side of the rig, lest he squeeze the steering wheel in half, he was that white-knuckled. I finally just wound up driving to all the calls myself. Seemed a more productive use of my time than expelling exaggerated sighs and pointedly looking at the speedomoeter, anyway.

I mean, I like to watch the seasons change, but not from the back of my ambulance between scene and Emergency Department.



Comments - Add Yours

  • Epijunky

    My partner alternates between taking tight turns at 50 mph and driving 20 under the speed limit.  And they wonder why my BP is so high and I’m literally twitching by the end of my shifts.  

  • Old_NFO

    LOL, well, he DID do what you told him… :-)

  • Old_NFO

    Just not real fast…

  • Sara McHale

    ((((Kelly)))) I hope things improve for you really soon. If not, I hope you can get a new partner (if possible). Maybe he will change. Anyway, I do understand your frustration from what you’ve written and wanted to let you know I care.

  • GaHazmedic

    Kelly, I love what you write, and I generally agree with what you have to say. I must, however, take issue with a comment in this blog. You stated that running hot only saves about 30 seconds in the city. There has NEVER been an unbiased study of this. The only studies that have been done, were done by people trying to get rid of our lights and sirens. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how wrong they were. If you bypass one stop light because of it, you’ve saved 3 minutes. I’m all for smooth rides instead of fast rides myself. I only wish people would stop quoting the results of those ridiculous studies.

    Steven Owen Sr, Paramedic/EMS Instructor
    An “ambulance driver” for the last 30 years

    • Ambulance_Driver

      Good point, Steve. It was a throwaway assertion without anything to back it up.
      That said, I’m not a big fan of lights and sirens, period. Response time standards themselves are based on junk science and made-up statistics as well, wouldn’t you agree?
      In my opinion, the only response time that we *know* is vital is less than 4 minutes for a cardiopulmonary arrest – which no EMS system in the country can meet consistently.
      So if you can’t make 4 minutes for a CPA, what’s the point? Everything else we have is just as much supposition and junk science as the studies that purport to show little or no benefit for RLS response.
      We have to strike some sort of happy medium, based on solid data, that falls somewhere between RLS for everything based on an unmeetable deadline for 1% of our calls, and something like an installation appointment with the local cable company.
      My sense of it is, we run RLS *far* more often than is necessary.

      • Michael Hatfield

        Me thinks that ‘woo woo’ traffic is overrated.

      • GaHazmedic

        I do agree, Kelly. I, also, think that RLS is used way too much. Of course, I also hold the unpopular belief that helicopters are used too much. Stay safe, brother. Look forward to your next blog.

    • Bobball

       I’d have to find it…it dates back to the mid-late ’90s, but Jeff Ho did a very unbiased study on this very topic. In the “typical” urban environment (city, population between 300k-400k) the average time saved using lights and sirens was about 2.5 minutes (for the whole call). Oh, and this study had little to do with “getting rid of” lights and sirens. It simply addressed time savings.

      That said, judicious use of Lights and Sirens is important. There are times when we should do it, and times when we should not.

      Bob (though I’m a young-un…only been in the civilian EMS field for 29 years)…

  • emtdan

    Is your partner a nervous driver or just slow as hell?

    • Ambulance_Driver

      Both. I’m just glad he’s not my regular partner.

  • julied

    you’re a hard man to please …. 

  • Dmkemt

    Rural settings are much different then the urban setting you all seem to be talking about … when the nearest trauma center is twenty miles away… using lights and siren saves  10 minutes or greater particularly at rush hour.  When at the high traffic volume times going at normal flow it would be a 40 minute ride sitting at red light after red light going through 5 small town… Where as use our emergency lights and sirens we can continue to move toward the trauma center.  I’m not talking excessive speed or risking driving… just the ability to keep moving… carefully going through red lights… Emergency Lights and siren make a huge difference.

    • Ambulance_Driver

      Which is why I said, “in an urban setting.”