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Emergency responders feeling impact of busy Michigan construction season

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Posted at 4:29 PM, Jun 07, 2023

(WXYZ) — Construction overload! It’s not only drivers feeling the impacts of a busier than usual construction season. It’s also emergency responders.

That was made clear with an incident over the weekend in which police officers were forced to rush a child to the hospital in their patrol car when the EMS vehicle they needed was held up in construction traffic.

Deputies in race against time

"It's not common, usually the ambulance is right there to coincide with the fire department," said Macomb County Sheriff's Commander Jason Abro.

It’s rare, but proof that this year’s busy construction season is having an impact on emergency response times.

"A far more difficult situation," said Kolby Miller, CEO of Medstar Ambulance.

Medstar has a fleet of 165 EMS vehicles.

"Even the best intention driver just doesn’t have a place to go to get out of our way — that slows that response dramatically," said Miller.

Alternative routes and GPS tools he says no longer solve the problem.

"All the vehicles that were on street A have found their way to street B and made that just as slow of a response as the original construction zone," he said.

The question we wanted to ask MDOT, which oversees state road construction: why so many projects at once?

"We received a great deal of extra money from the governor's bonding project to rebuild our Michigan roadways ... and very often, funding is tied to a time frame, you use it or you lose it," said Diane Cross of MDOT.

MDOT also says first responders in impacted areas were consulted in the planning process — and argues the onus is on the drivers to do their part. But Medstar is concerned that these days, commuters appear more confused and hesitant to pull over.

"There’s vehicles that simply stop and block access to construction zones and then there are vehicles that are oblivious to the emergency vehicle," said Abro.

It’s important to remember that drivers play a big role in helping emergency crews. You are legally obligated to move over whether the emergency vehicle is on your side of the street or opposite of you. At the very least, you’re expected to slow down.