Fire department’s post goes viral: Slow down, move over for first responders

CALEDONIA, Mich. -- The Dutton Fire Department's Facebook message urging drivers to slow down and move over for emergency crews has gone viral with more than 3,150 times.

Their Sept. 6 post sparked a widespread conversation after "four vehicles in a matter of seconds came within inches of hitting a member of [the Dutton Fire] department," during a serious crash near 68th and Kalamazoo, according to the post.

“Just paying attention, being aware when you come up to an intersection, be listening for emergency response vehicles, slow down, and be patient is really the majority of what we’re looking for," said Lt. Brian Zylstra with the Dutton Fire Department.

Among the hundreds of comments, a woman named Amy Sandusky shared her picture thanking the fire department for rescuing her. She wrote she was one of the victims Kent Count firefighters saved in that crash. Family started Sandusky this GoFundMe page to help as she heals.

Lt. Zylstra says the reminder is simple but important for anyone driving every single day.

“Be cautious and again understand that our personnel are in a vulnerable position," he said. "Treat it like it’s one of your family members that’s out there.”

The original post from the fire department reads as follows:

"Folks, we'd like to take this opportunity to have a very critical conversation with you. This conversation stems from a close call. Please, after you've read this, share and pass it on. This certainly isn't unique to us and our community.

Many of you are probably aware of the very serious accident that occurred at 68th and Kalamazoo this past weekend. Two people were pinned in their vehicles, and Dutton assisted Cutlerville with extricating them. Of course that type of operation in that high volume area necessitates that we control the traffic to ensure the safety of our scene and victims. Unfortunately during this call, no less than four vehicles in a matter of seconds came within inches of hitting a member of our department. We park our trucks to protect the scene. Our vehicles are painted bright red with reflective markings and have red warning lights visible from 360 degrees. Our firefighters are wearing high visibility vests and constantly watching you. We're doing what we can and need to do. There's nothing more we can do to make YOU operate safely.

In 2005, 390 highway workers were killed due to being struck by cars. In 2006, one police officer a month was killed by a passing motorist. Over 20% of firefighter line of duty deaths occur on the road.

Michigan, like every single one of the remaining 49 states, has a lane over law. This law dictates that you shall move over a lane at an emergency scene if possible and safe to do so. If not, you must slow down at a minimum! In Michigan, a violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. Striking and killing a first responder is a felony punishable by 15 years as a guest of the Michigan Department of Corrections. In spite of the law and stiff penalties, a staggering 71% of people have never heard of this law.

We get it. We have lives too, and we know everyone is busy. But understand that the time you save driving over the speed limit, pushing that yellow light to the last second, trying to beat us at an intersection and whipping around a parked emergency vehicle amounts to a mere couple minutes at best, and could potentially cost one of us our lives, and the next fifteen years of yours.

We implore you to consider this information. All of us at Dutton Fire have businesses and jobs outside of the fire department. All of us have family that love us. We leave our careers, our families, dinners, birthdays, holidays and ball games to come serve you. It's our pleasure to serve you, we love what we do, and we expect nothing in return, except that you just slow down and be careful. The least anyone can do is look out for us, and help us get back home! Again, please share and pass this on, and if you have young drivers in the home, discuss this with them as well. Thank you for your time and attention."

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