Curb on lights, sirens

2018-01-29 14:28
City officials may have to ask permission to use blue/red lights and sirens.

City officials may have to ask permission to use blue/red lights and sirens. (File)

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Msunduzi emergency response officers may soon have to ask for permission to use blue lights and sirens, to prevent the abuse of these warning signals and curtail secondary accidents when responding to emergencies.

In his report to council, Senior Traffic Superintendent Chandralall Parbhoo said the standard operating procedure on emergency signals will compel officers to always obey traffic rules or face disciplinary action.

The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 authorises traffic officers and firefighters to make use of blue or red lights and sirens in the execution of their duties, but Parbhoo said this has to be done responsibly and with due regard to the safety of all road-users.

He said work hours are lost and damages incurred when emergency vehicles get involved in secondary incidents when responding to scenes. This ends up costing the City.

“By being involved in a secondary incident/accident, it leaves the initial ‘emergency’ unattended, which then has to be attended by another officer,” he said.

If the operating procedure is adopted by council, the Msunduzi officers will have to ask for permission from their supervisor or an emergency control centre to use their emergency signals.

Permission has to be sought when responding to all incidents as well as escorting other vehicles.

The centre also has to be notified if the officers are pursuing a suspect.

On granting the permission, the controller or supervisor will create an incident book to that effect stating exactly which officers and their vehicle registration numbers are responding to the emergency.

Upon reaching the scene, the sirens will have to be switched off even if the lights are left on.

After executing their duties the officers have to report to the emergency control centre whether their blue or red rights are still required as they leave the scene of the incident.

Parbhoo recommended consideration also be given to the prohibition of the sounding of sirens and air horns in close proximity to hospitals, old age homes and places of worship in service, unless it is a life-threatening call and the traffic situation will cause unreasonable delays.

“Emergency sirens must not be left blaring continuously and indiscriminately during the middle of the night or if it is obvious that there are no vehicles, traffic lights, stop signs or blatant obstruction ahead,” he said.

He said the operation procedure will assist in determining the grounds for council to accept and approve insurance claims when the emergency officer has been involved in an accident.

Parbhoo said the responsible use of sirens and blue or red lights will also “prevent the public from generalising and stereotyping such emergency responses negatively”.

An Msunduzi traffic officer, who asked to remain unnamed, said he supported Parbhoo’s recommendations.

He said some emergency response officers thought the sirens and blue lights gave them the right to drive recklessly and that is how many ended up being involved in secondary accidents.

“Most of the secondary accidents are not major but they result in much-needed vehicles being taken off the road to be fixed.

“If it was not for insurance, I think the City would be spending hundreds of thousands of rands on damages every year,” he added.

He said he suspected that for politicians deployed in government, travelling in a blue lights convoy was more for their “status” than rushing to take care of something urgent.

“If this procedure is going to work then the City needs to tell the politicians that we can’t use the blue lights and speed through traffic whenever they are running late for a meeting or their child has a school event that they can’t afford to miss,” he said.

Last year The Witness reported on the fury of the drivers who alleged to have seen Msunduzi deputy mayor Thobani Zuma’s blue light brigade causing havoc by driving recklessly on Zwartkop Road and Mayor’s Walk.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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