SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Paramedics said sometimes drivers can become a distraction when they're on the way to a call. Matthew Gruchow has experienced some unique circumstances while riding in an ambulance.
"I have had people panic and come to a full stop in front of an ambulance," Gruchow said.
He's not the one driving the ambulance, the EMT is.
"I've had people panic and not pay attention and pull into oncoming traffic because they think they need to get out of our way," Gruchow added.
Gruchow is usually standing up in the back of the ambulance, treating patients.
"I've also had people who are in a far lane, and it registers in their brain that they need to pull to the right. So they'll pull in front of the ambulance across multiple lanes of traffic and then come to a stop," Gruchow said.
All of those situations are creating an unsafe environment.
"Please don't do any of those things," Gruchow said.
When an ambulance is running its lights and sirens on streets in Sioux Falls, Gruchow said drivers should pull to the nearest curb and come to a complete stop.
"Just because the law says you need to pull to the right does not mean it's always the safest thing for you to do," Gruchow said.
The South Dakota law states that whether you are on an interstate or on surface streets, "The driver of every other vehicle shall immediately drive to a position as near as possible and parallel to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway, or in case of a one-way highway the nearest edge or curb, clear of any intersection of highways, and shall stop and remain in such position unless otherwise directed by a police or traffic officer until the authorized emergency vehicle shall have passed."
Gruchow said when an ambulance passes you on the interstate, move over and give them the left lane. You don't need to stop. If the ambulance is stopped on the interstate, drop at least 20 miles per hour below the speed limit and creep past the scene.
"We're dealing with distracted drivers quite a bit," Gruchow said. "The most dangerous thing that you can do is just not pay attention."
So if every driver does their part, then everyone can stay safe, which is Gruchow's number one concern. Ambulance drivers are only able to go 10 miles above the posted speed limit. The EMT who drives the ambulance and the paramedic are required to take an educational safety course before going out on the road.
Regardless, Gruchow said a little common sense by everyone can go a long way when it comes to the move over laws.