PHOENIX — When a driver is involved in a crash, first responders are the ones who put themselves in harm's way. They do it even if that means they could become the next call for help.
"Our firefighters are highly trained to go into house fires to apartment fires, to gas leaks, to dangerous situations," said Capt. Rob McDade with the Phoenix Fire Department. "If you ask any firefighter, they're most fearful on a car accident on a freeway."
New data from AAA Arizona has found one in four drivers are not familiar with the state's Move Over Law.
ABC15 decided to go to the very people this lack of understanding impacts the most: firefighters.
It's such a prevalent issue that those in the driver's seat of the fire truck must train how to avoid those on a roadway who do not know what they are doing.
"We try to be there in under five minutes," explained Phoenix Fire Engineer and Paramedic Ramon Gonzalez. "And we make a difference when those seconds count."
But Gonzalez said, often, they are swerving and slowing down to avoid other drivers on the road in moments those seconds matter the most.
They train to deal with drivers and Gonzalez let ABC15 hop aboard a truck at the Phoenix Fire Training Academy going through a series of speed tests.
During one test on a track, last-minute decisions must be made precisely and safely in the smallest of spaces.
"So, what our expectation is... that a car will recognize lights and sirens coming either behind them or towards them that they're going to slow down... they're going to move to the right and they're going to stop," said Capt. McDade.
Phoenix Fire said move over to the right and stop as they pass by with lights and sirens. If someone is driving past an emergency scene on a street or a freeway, Arizona's Move Over Law requires all drivers to move over at least one lane.
"There's been catastrophic accidents where police officers, highway patrol, and firefighters have lost their lives on these scenes," Capt. McDade said. "So the statistics bear it out - it's a very dangerous place for us to be."
When fire crews do arrive on the scene, drivers may notice they use the 46,000-pound fire truck as a shield to protect those involved in a crash, as well as themselves.
ABC15 asked the Arizona Department of Public Safety about the number of citations they have given to drivers who do not follow the law since 2018. They say have handed out close to 4,500 citations and nearly 12,000 warnings. If cited, drivers may have to pay a $150 fine.
Do you have a road issue or a question for the Operation Safe Roads team? You can call 833-AZ-ROADS or email firstname.lastname@example.org.