By Susan Koeppen

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There are more than 10,000 EMS providers in Western Pennsylvania. That’s 700 ambulances on the roads each day responding to emergencies. And, getting an ambulance through traffic can be risky business.

There is a reportable ambulance accident every single day in the Commonwealth.

“It was raining out and we were on a ramp going 70 miles an hour and the ambulance flipped over and hit a block wall,” recalls Amber Gettemy, from Plum EMS.

To reduce the number of accidents, EMS West, the regional EMS Council covering 16 counties in Western Pennsylvania, and UPMC have partnered to bring EMS Virtual Drive to rescue workers. The state-of-the-art simulator helps EMS providers learn how to drive in dangerous conditions so they can better handle those situations if they occur in the real world.

“They’re in a life or death situation most of the time. It’s their job to get them and their partner to the spot safely, and the last thing we want to do is cause harm to innocent bystanders, and that’s exactly what EMS Virtual Drive is all about,” says Brian Shaw, EMS West’s deputy director.

For example, drivers will experience changing weather patterns, like heavy snow. Going through intersections, EMS providers learn to navigate distracted drivers and pedestrians.

EMS Virtual Drive is mobile and travels to 16 different counties. In operation for two years, the simulator has been used to train more than 1,000 EMS providers in Western Pennsylvania.

Things to know:

  • State law requires the driver of an ambulance to go the speed limit and come to a stop at controlled intersections like a red light or stop sign.
  • State law requires you to pull off to the right when you approach an ambulance or if an ambulance approaches you from behind.
  • At a red light, stay in your lane until the light turns green and you can safely get to the right and out of the way of the ambulance.
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