Code Red: How emergency vehicles navigate Baton Rouge traffic

Code Red: How emergency vehicles navigate Baton Rouge traffic

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Traffic has become an unfortunate staple in and around Baton Rouge, which means at any given time of the day, interstates, highways and intersections can become congested.

For emergency vehicles, every day is peak day. So, how do they navigate the Capital City's traffic gridlock?

"We know that at certain times of the day - morning, evening rush hours - we know to stay off the interstates either inbound in the morning or outbound in the afternoon," said Jim Barnett with Baton Rouge EMS. "If we're transporting a patient or we're responding to a call and we run into traffic like this, we're going to drop off and take Laurel or take Government because Government gives a lot of options for where we can go."

Maneuvering gridlock and congestion is not just an issue on the interstates. It is a problem on side streets and intersections as well. Barnett said their job is to approach every situation, especially intersections, with caution.

"We're going to try to go across one lane at a time, making eye contact with every other driver. That way, we know that they know that we all know which way I need to go," Barnett explained.

There are tools to help emergency vehicles navigate through crowded streets, like the Opticom system, which uses sensory technology to manipulate traffic signals.

"If it works properly far enough in advance, it's going to turn the light green for us, so that all of the traffic ahead of us, as well as us, can go through the green light, as opposed to trying to run a red light," Barnett added.

The best tool to help EMS maneuver is you, the driver. Barnett said pull to the right whenever you see or hear sirens. If you can't do that, sometimes the best alternative is to stop where you are and let EMS do its job.

"The safest thing is to stay still. If the light is red, don't go through the red light. I would much rather us have to wait a few seconds longer than to see you get in an accident. If you're sitting at an intersection and at a red light, the lane beside you is open and you see the ambulance up behind you, there's no need to move. You can sit where you are, I'll take the open lane and go around you even if it's a turning lane," Barnett stated.

It's a crucial balance between caution and time, because in an emergency situation, it's every critical second that counts.

"Ultimately, the goal here is to arrive at the call safely to treat the patient. If that doesn't happen because I'm in a hurry and I get in a wreck or I cause a wreck, is it really worth it?" Barnett asked.

EMS officials said they respond to an average of 152 calls per day and their response time is eight minutes or less.

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