Editorial: Let's keep it moving, folks

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Most of us appreciate the service that firefighters and other public safety workers perform for the community every day. It’s stressful, dangerous work where seconds can mean the difference between deliverance and disaster.
So why do we make their jobs harder and put them at even greater risk by treating fire and accident scenes as if they’re simply another reality show designed for our personal entertainment?
Case in point: When fire erupted at a house off N.C. 150 just outside the Salisbury city limits last Saturday, firefighters said their access to the scene was impeded by the number of gawkers who drove into the neighborhood trying to get a better look at the fire. As a result, tanker trucks were delayed in reaching the scene, and the destruction was greater than it might have been had firefighters had unfettered access. Granted, the fact that the house was on a deadend street may also have complicated the logistics, but there’s simply no excuse for motorists to ignore common-sense safety precautions and flock to the scene of a fire or accident. In this case, fortunately, the fire involved loss of property, not harm to life. But if someone had been seriously injured or a firefighter had collapsed at the scene, the gawkers clogging the roads could just as easily have delayed medical treatment for the seconds or minutes that can make a life-saving difference.
Protecting the lives of our public safety workers is an ongoing challenge, and it’s one in which we all have a responsibility to show concern for others. A few years ago, because of concerns about the safety of officers and emergency responders at accident scenes, the state enacted a “Move Over” law that requires motorists to change lanes or slow down when passing a stopped emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the roadside. To help our public safety workers work as efficiently and safely as possible, however, it’s not enough just to move over; motorists in the vicinity of fires or accidents also need to keep moving on.