GFD asks drivers to yield right of way

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The span between seconds and minutes can often prove the difference between life and death, and no one knows that better than the Greenville Fire Department.

And though the department’s many trained firefighters are well-versed in offering aid to the Camellia City’s suffering victims, this time they’re the ones asking for a bit of help from the community at large.

Greenville Fire Department captain Les Liller is offering a reminder to Greenville residents to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles.  While that procedure is generally considered to be common knowledge, in Liller’s experience, that has frequently failed to be the case.

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“With us being in the business, we just assume that everyone knows what you’re supposed to do to yield right of way, Liller said. “And apparently, that’s not always the case.  Maybe people have forgotten from when they were in driver’s education or taking the driver’s test.

“The best thing to do is safely yield to the right and slow down to give right of way to the emergency vehicle. You can stop once you’ve yielded to the right, but the biggest thing is yielding to the right to give that emergency apparatus a lane to travel in safely.”

Liller said that Fort Dale Road, which spans four lanes, can often prove troublesome to navigate for the department, particularly during the lunch rush.

It’s during times of heavy congestion that Liller has seen local drivers displaying some of the most reckless behavior.

“During certain times of the day, it’s quite busy,” he said. “And what we have seen on occasion, which terrifies us, is we’ve had people moving over to the opposing lane to get out of our way, putting themselves in harm’s way going into oncoming traffic. 

“I know these fire trucks are very intimidating with the lights and sirens are on, but again, our task is not to frighten or startle anybody—we’re simply asking for the right of way.  And if you can’t yield completely to the right, just move over as far as you can.  If we’re on Fort Dale and all four lanes of traffic are occupied, if everyone moves to the right a little bit, it gives us enough of a lane and we’ll go straight down the center line.”

Seconds are precious currency for firefighters, who are often trained to awaken from deep sleep and be fully dressed in less than a minute, in the event of an emergency.

Liller said that every call isn’t a life-or-death situation, yet the fact that stations receive 3-5 emergency calls per day means that the likelihood is higher than most would suspect.

“For some calls, those few minutes don’t make any difference, if we have just a general medical illness or something like that,” he said. “But in the event of a structure fire, traffic accident or very severe medical issues, those few minutes do make the difference between a person being in pain longer or actually, in certain situations, it’s as serious as life and death.”

The volume of calls is expected for Greenville’s various firefighters.  The wrinkle, of course, is a matter of timing.

“The difficulty is that we never know when that’s going to be,” Liller continued. “It could be 2 a.m. in the morning when there’s virtually no traffic out.  Or it may be during the morning or afternoon rush when people are trying to get to and from work or school. So there are times when we’re travelling through congested areas. Our drivers train constantly on defensive driving and how to avoid incidents. 

“So we constantly update our training on the emergency side as far as how to drive safely in emergency situations.  We just ask that the public remembers that we are asking for the right of way, and if you yield to the right and give us that right of way, it would be very appreciated.”