Woodland Hills and Canoga Park personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg was saddened to hear of the serious ambulance and car collision which to place on August 1, 2018 near the intersection of Canoga Avenue and Sherman Way. Not only is Sherman Way the most dangerous street in Canoga Park, but Canoga Park drivers seem to becoming more and more confused about what to do when you hear a siren. The combination of confusion and the heavy traffic causes catastrophic damage.
In fact, five people were injured and hospitalized in the car accident when a LAFD ambulance, with lights and sirens blaring, collided with a vehicle in the intersection. The ambulance was carrying a sick passenger at the time. The sick passenger, three firefighters and the driver of the other vehicle were all injured and hospitalized. While being alert is always important, especially on Sherman Way in Canoga Park, there are established rules of the road which would have prevented this tragedy.
Get Out of the Way of Emergency Vehicles!
Because sirens and flashing lights have become more and more common, Canoga Park drivers are becoming somewhat desensitized to the danger that goes along with those emergency signals. All of us are in a hurry and our vehicles are relatively quiet inside and we are almost always listening to loud music. So, flashing lights and sirens are just not that “alarming” anymore. A friendly review of the traffic law is in order.
According to the Vehicle Code and the Department of Motor Vehicles, you must always yield the right-of-way to any police vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. You must also drive to the right edge of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. Be honest—-do you always drive to the right of the roadway?
Although the precise details of the Canoga Park car accident have not yet been disclosed, the property damage photos in the media suggest that either the car ignored the sirens and crossed through the intersection, or that the car stopped in the middle of the intersection making the accident unavoidable on the part of the ambulance.
If you take nothing else from this article, please heed this warning, never stop in an intersection if you see emergency lights or hear an approaching siren! If you are in an intersection when you see an emergency vehicle, continue through the intersection and then, drive to the right as soon as it is safe and stop. Please understand that emergency vehicles often use the wrong side of the street to continue on their way. They sometimes use a loudspeaker to talk to drivers blocking their path. You must obey any traffic direction, order, or signal given by a traffic or peace officer, or a firefighter even if it conflicts with existing signs, signals, or laws.
While not involved in this particular Canoga Park car accident, it is important to know and acknowledge these other important vehicle laws associated with emergency vehicles. You should know that it is against the law to follow within 300 feet behind any fire engine, police vehicle, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle with a siren or flashing lights (Vehicle Code §21706). If you drive for sight-seeing purposes to the scene of a fire, collision, or other disaster, you may be arrested. Casual observers interfere with the essential services of police, firefighter, ambulance crews, or other rescue or emergency personnel. Do not do it!
If you are involved in a collision with an emergency vehicle of any kind, you should be aware that you must make a claim with the proper governmental agency with 6 months or your claim is forever barred. In addition, governmental agencies are immune from liability for ambulance and police pursuits if they were following established emergency procedures.
It is recommended that anyone involved in such a crash consult as soon as possible with a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer familiar with government claims procedure and the applicable governmental immunities. And—Hey! Canoga Park drivers! Get out of the way of emergency vehicles!