It’s tragically not uncommon to see ambulances, sirens blaring and lights flashing, stuck behind slow or unmoving traffic in Indonesia. While it’s technically illegal to block emergency vehicles, the law is rarely enforced and the concept of “giving way” for ambulances is dangerously unknown or ignored by many stubborn drivers, the results of which can obviously be deadly when there’s a patient in the back seat whose life may depend on how fast they can be rushed to the nearest hospital.
To help combat this, volunteer groups of ambulance escorts have been formed in many Indonesian cities to help carve a path for the emergency vehicles through traffic. But one such group in Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, showed just how much opposition they can sometimes face at the hands of reckless drivers.
The video, shared by Escorting Ambulance Medan’s Instagram account on Sunday, shows one of the volunteer group’s motorcycle riders attempting to get cars to make way for an ambulance bringing a patient to a local hospital. But one driver does not take kindly to being ordered by the escort to move aside. Not only does the driver not pull over to allow the ambulance to pass, he actually speeds up in order to block its lane.
Despite numerous calls and curses from the escort, who repeatedly says that he’s recording the whole incident, the ambulance is only able to narrowly get past the car driver at a toll gate, where the driver (who claimed to be a member of the military) gets out of his car to confront the escort when the video ends.
Although what happened afterwards isn’t explained, the Instagram caption warns the driver that his “attitude is very embarrassing to his institution” and that he should be ready get called upon at his place of work. It ends by saying “Hopefully you will soon be in an ambulance and get stuck in terrible traffic, pal”.
The caption may have alluded to the fact that the driver might be called upon at his place by the police, since his actions in the video (in which his license plate is clearly visible) were in violation of Indonesian traffic laws, which state that blocking an ambulance that is carrying a patient carries a maximum penalty of one month in jail or a IDR250,000 (USD18)
But that law seems to be rarely (if ever) enforced, allowing obstinate Indonesian drivers to escape unpunished. (Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to just Indonesia…)
But unless something is done to change the mentality of the country’s drivers, Indonesia’s vastly underfunded and understaffed emergency medical responders will need to rely on brave volunteer escorts to help them open the path and save lives.