Safety First

Driving Tips for EMTs

CarolinaFireJournal - Cheryl Bikowski
Cheryl Bikowski
10/10/2014 -

Before driving your emergency vehicle, it is important to make sure that your ambulance is in working order. You should know the current and forecasted weather conditions and be vigilant in paying attention to other drivers on the road. You cannot get to the scene of the emergency if your vehicle breaks down, or you get into an auto accident.


Perform A Walk-Around of Your Vehicle at the Beginning of Your Shift

Safety starts with a thorough inspection of your vehicle. Check the maintenance logs and make a mental note of the last time your rig was in the shop for annual maintenance or a repair. Walk around your vehicle and make sure all the lights are working. Check the tires for air pressure and tread wear, and look for any visible damage to the exterior that could cause a safety hazard for your crew or other drivers on the road.

Know the Weather and Road Conditions

As an EMT, you have to be out in the worst conditions, including heavy rain, sleet, snow and ice. Before you leave for your shift, get a weather and road condition update. If the conditions call for heavy rain, review the procedures for hydroplaning, which include not making any sudden movements with the steering wheel or brakes. If your vehicle starts to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas and keep the vehicle moving straight. As your ambulance slows down, you will regain traction with the road.

If the weather conditions call for driving on snow and ice, travel only as fast as you feel comfortable. Give yourself extra distance to stop and apply the brakes gently to avoid sliding and spinning. Remember that bridges, ramps and overpasses freeze before other road sections. If your emergency vehicle begins to slide or loses traction, immediately take your foot off the gas and steer the vehicle straight ahead until you regain traction.

Be Vigilant When Traveling to an Emergency

It is up to you to be aware of the traffic around you, even when you are responding to an emergency with your lights and sirens in operation. While you are allowed to exceed the speed limit, ignore red lights and stop signs, maneuver around other cars, and drive the wrong way down one-way streets, not all drivers will hear your sirens. Additionally, some drivers may choose to ignore your rapid approach. Therefore, it is up to you to be vigilant when traveling at excessive speeds, entering intersections on a red light and traveling the wrong way, in order to avoid any potential accidents.

Mind Your Speed

Traveling at high speeds reduces the amount of time you have to react to an adverse road condition and stopped or slow-moving cars. There are also numerous studies that state that traveling above the speed limit does not get you to your destination much faster than if you had been traveling the speed limit. With this in mind, only travel at speeds that you are comfortable driving. If possible, try to find an alternate route that has a sooner estimated time of arrival.

Corner with Caution

Ambulances are top heavy. This means that turning a corner at a high speed could flip your emergency vehicle, rendering you unable to respond to the emergency. It can also be dangerous for your crew members and your patient because the centrifugal force at the rear of your ambulance is significantly greater than at the front.

If you have to tense your body during a turn, chances are good that your crew members have to grab onto equipment and the sides of the vehicle in order to remain upright. This could injure the members of your team and prevent them from taking care of your patient. Therefore, it is important to slow down and corner with caution.


Cheryl Bikowski is the Marketing Communications Supervisor of Gamber-Johnson in Stevens Point, WI. Gamber-Johnson is the primary provider of emergency vehicle consoles for EMS, fire and law enforcement vehicles in the public safety industry. Visit Gamber-Johnson

Comments & Ratings

There is no comment.

Your Name
Enter the code

Issue 34.1 | Summer 2019

Past Issue Archives