Heads On a Swivel Out There…

Had a close call last week. My partner and I were headed back to our station in the wee hours of the morning, following a section of Interstate industrial loop known for traffic accidents. It’s a pretty bad piece of road, sweeping curve coming off a steep bridge, and the streetlights don’t really illuminate the area very well. The curve of the road and the lack of visibility combine to form a pretty significant bottleneck, and cars are known to plow into each other there.

Coming off the bridge, we happened upon just such an accident, literally seconds after it happened; one disabled vehicle in the inside lane, the car it struck about 50 yards out into a rutted field, and another half dozen cars pulled off on the shoulder, with every damned one of the drivers out of their vehicles and either standing in the roadway or on the shoulder, all seemingly in a race to be the first person to connect to 911, or be struck by oncoming traffic.

You know, whichever happened first.

The driver of the vehicle in the field was in Full On Panic Mode, running around like a headless chicken and demanding that an ambulance be sent right now, oblivious to the fact that one was parked on the shoulder 25 yards away with its emergency lights on, and the paramedic (me) was standing there talking to him.

While I was dealing with Panicky Problem Patient, my partner was desperately trying to flag traffic. These are the scenes that kill EMS crews, when traffic is still whizzing by at highway speeds, and no cops around to slow them down. It’s the kind of scene where, by the time you get your reflective triangles out of their compartment, you could wind up road pizza yourself.

So I was dealing with my patient insisting that it was his right, I suppose by virtue of being the most emotionally distraught person there, to be treated and transported first. While I’m assessing him, and finding nothing but hostility and an entitled attitude, I hear a frightened scream.

I look up to see my partner standing in the road, wearing his reflective traffic vest as I was, and desperately waving our two spare traffic vests to get the attention of an oblivious pickup driver who was busy rubbernecking at me out in the field. My partner’s sense of self-preservation eventually took over, and he grabbed the driver of vehicle #1 and dove for the shoulder.

The pickup plowed into the disabled car at over 60 mph, less than ten feet from my partner.

The driver of vehicle #1, who was apparently wanted by the po po, promptly said “F*ck this, I’m outta here,” and fled the scene on foot. All of the drivers of the bystander vehicles suddenly grasped the urgency of my shouted command to “Get the hell out of the road!” when we first arrived on scene.

They all joined me in stunned silence out in the field, whereupon they soberly contemplated how close they came to becoming human bowling pins. Just last week, two of my fellow Borg Drones and a Baton Rouge cop were seriously injured when an impaired driver plowed through an accident scene.

Keep your heads on a swivel, people, and maintain your situational awareness. There is no such thing as a safe scene.

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