In this file photo, an ambulance driver maneuvers to evade traffic while attending to an emergency call. — ArchivesAmbulance drivers call it unfair
DAMMAM/JUBAIL – The traffic authorities here say they will fine or arrest government drivers who break the country’s laws, including those from the Civil Defense, security agencies and the health departments, even in emergency situations.
This is according to reports published by Al-Youm and Asharq Arabic newspapers on Tuesday.
Col. Ali Al-Zahrani, Traffic Department spokesman in the Eastern Province, said drivers will be punished under the country’s current traffic laws.
However, ambulance drivers are still allowed to jump red traffic lights in an emergency, Al-Zahrani added.
Erring drivers will also face having reports of their offenses sent to their superiors, he said.
This has caused an uproar among ambulance drivers, especially after an ambulance driver made an accident in Dammam on Monday, the same day Al-Zahrani issued his statement.
Drivers working for the Red Crescent and Civil Defense say that they are risking their own lives trying to save the lives of other people.
A driver at the Red Crescent, who did not want to be named, said the system is unfair. “Believe it or not, ambulances and drivers are not covered by insurance. If we have an accident and it is our mistake, we bear the repair costs of the damaged ambulance.”
He said that he once had an accident while transporting a critically-ill patient, and subsequently had to repair the ambulance at his own expense.
He said it makes no sense for an ambulance driver to be allowed to jump a red traffic light but have to pay for repairs if there is an accident.
He said the lives of patients can sometimes depend on the few minutes he can save while speeding to a hospital. “This is why we risk our lives, no matter the consequences. We deal with people’s lives so we never think about the ambulance.”
“I appeal to the authorities at the Red Crescent to seriously consider a plan to insure ambulances to enable the drivers to perform their duties.”
Another ambulance driver said all ambulance drivers risk their lives when racing to the nearest hospital.
Abdullah Al-Amir, Director General of the Red Crescent in the Eastern Province, said: “It’s true that the ambulances of the Red Crescent are not covered by insurance but there are some rules regarding this matter.”
He said action is taken against drivers depending on the degree of culpability, as determined by reports from the traffic police. – SG