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September 12, 2002

Bill would LET cops, fire trucks run lights
Chief Robert Edwards Jr., CFO

After reading the local paper this morning, my wife says, “Did you see this law being proposed?”  How observant of her!  No, I must have missed it (sports section was more important because one of my idols… Johnny Unitas had passed away).
Quickly, she handed me the article and in this very brief torn out piece, several points were made that really caught my attention.  The first was the statement that currently United States Postal Services vehicles are the ONLY ones authorized to run a red traffic light.  Did you get that?  ONLY the mail can blow the light!  The second thing was really where was need coming from?  I thought we were always supposed to stop, or at least roll through slowly, the stoplights (none out here in the sticks), and the stop signs.

So I started researching it on the web.  Sure enough today, in the New Jersey legislature, bill A403 is supposed to be introduced by Assemblyman Thomas H. Kean.  Bill A403 establishes guidelines for operating authorized emergency vehicles in emergency situations.

What follows is an extract of the law as posted on the website:

1. a. As used in this section, "emergency operation" means the operation, or parking, of an authorized emergency vehicle when that vehicle is engaged in: the pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law; the transportation of a sick or injured person, blood or blood products or organs for transplant, when the situation involves an imminent health risk or medical exigency; or a response to a police or law enforcement call, alarm or fire or any other call for assistance or the rendering of aid at the scene of an accident, disaster, actual or potential release of hazardous materials or other such event.

   b. The operator of an authorized emergency vehicle, when involved in an emergency operation, may:
    (1) Stop, stand or park the vehicle, notwithstanding the provisions of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes to the contrary;
    (2) Proceed past a steady red signal, a flashing red signal or a stop sign, but only after the operator has slowed or stopped the vehicle to insure the existence of a right of way sufficient for safe operation and the safety of others;
   (3) Exceed the maximum speed limit, provided the operator exercises all due regard for the safety of others and does not endanger life or property; and
   (4) Disregard signs and regulations governing the direction of traffic movement and turning in specified directions, provided the operator exercises all due regard for the safety of others and does not endanger life or property by disregarding those signs and regulations.

c. The exemptions authorized under the provisions of subsection b. of this section shall apply only when an audible signal by bell, horn, siren, electronic device, exhaust whistle or other approved means is sounded from the authorized emergency vehicle involved in an emergency operation and that vehicle is equipped with, and displays, at least one lighted red lamp that, under normal atmospheric conditions, is visible in every direction from a distance of at least 500 feet

d. The exemptions authorized under the provisions of this section shall not relieve the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor shall it protect the operator from the consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.

This last point may be the most significant and should be emphasized to all emergency vehicle operators.  They are liable for their driving!  How many of your drivers think otherwise?

Please remember and remind your people that to help others is to arrive at the intended destination safely.  We must be defensive drivers and be aware of others potential actions.  Lights and sirens are requesting a right of way, not demanding it.

Well whether or not it passes, hopefully this is a message to all to Drive and Operate SAFELY.