Editorial: Discipline erring ambulance drivers

·2 min read

The big hospitals here are mostly located in the cities of Mandaue and Cebu—majority are private medical facilities and there are a few public hospitals, the biggest of which is Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in uptown Cebu City. Some patients from towns who are in emergency situations and need complicated surgeries are often transported to the hospitals located in the two cities. Patients from lower-tier hospitals are ferried by ambulances; these medical vehicles use their blinking lights, horns and sirens when in transit.

Here is a common sight: Most ambulances in emergency transit move fast, and they counterflow to avoid being trapped in traffic and arrive at their destinations within the golden hour.

And here is another common sight on Cebu roads: Some ambulances going back to their base hospitals still counterflow, move fast and use sirens and horns.

Environmentalist and lawyer Benjamin Cabrido Jr. has posted on his Facebook wall his observations about ambulances, specifically on ambulances that are not transporting patients.

Cabrido wrote that drivers of “ambulances returning to station without patient on board but still moving on counterflow traffic or running beyond the speed limit should be apprehended by authorities for violating Section 35 of Republic Act (RA) 4136.” The lawyer tagged Edwin Anthony Jumao-as, head of the Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue.

RA 4136, also known as the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, is the 58-year-old law that sets the traffic rules in the country.

Its Section 35 (a) states: “Any person driving a motor vehicle on a highway shall drive the same at a careful and prudent speed, not greater nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard for the traffic, the width of the highway, and of any other condition then and there existing; and no person shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway at such a speed as to endanger the life, limb and property of any person, nor at a speed greater than will permit him to bring the vehicle to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.”

Cabrido shared that emergency transport is Code 3 in the Ambulance Code. The maximum speed limit is 60 to 80 kilometers per hour, and the horn and siren must be used in every intersection.

The question is how many ambulance drivers in Cebu know this code? Do they know that Code 1 (lights on) is a non-emergency transport, the ambulance is roving and there are standby medics inside? Do they know that Code 2 (lights and horn) is also a non-emergency transport and horn is used in every intersection? Do they know that when the ambulance is in Codes 1 and 2, they must still obey traffic rules?

Erring ambulance drivers must be treated just like any other drivers who commit traffic violations. They do not rule the roads. The law does.

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