Charlotte firefighters frustrated by drivers who don't follow the law

by: Sarah Rosario Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte firefighters say they're tired of people pulling out in front of them on their way to emergency calls.

"They'll pull out right in front of us as we're going down the road, and it’s basically like playing chicken. It's very dangerous for us and for them," said Charlotte Fire Department engineer Chad Hunning.

Recent crashes between cars and fire trucks have led to injuries, slower response times and delays for drivers.

According to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, failure to yield to a siren could result in three points against a driver’s record. A reckless driving charge receives four points. A driver with 12 points in three years could get his or her license suspended.

Eyewitness News went out on a call with firefighters Wednesday and found a truck pulled over to the left. Firefighters said even though it was pulled over, the driver was still violating the law.

"We choose to go to the left, and we want people know to pull to the right because we're always going to go to the left," Hunning said.

A car collided with a fire truck on July 4. Police said the driver tried to pass the truck on Independence Boulevard with its lights and sirens on. No fire fighters were hurt, but two people were taken to the hospital.

In May, there was a similar crash. In that case, five people were taken to the hospital after police said a car tried to pass the truck.

Within the past year the Charlotte Fire Department has been involved in 25 accidents while responding to emergency calls. Firefighters said a crash can drastically delay response times or completely pull a crew off a call.   

"It can very well be the difference between life and death," said Capt. Mark Basnight.

Eyewitness News asked firefighters if they were considering asking for tougher penalties for people who fail to yield to fire trucks. They said a plan is not in the works, but they're asking for drivers to simply obey the rules of the road.