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Irving Fire Department Using Old Equipment To Protect First Responders On Roadsides

IRVING, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - First responders face many dangers on the job, but some of their most dangerous moments come while responding to accident victims on the side of the road.

Sometimes distracted drivers hit them.  The consequences can be deadly.

The Irving Fire Department is now using old fire engines as blockers to prevent distracted drivers from hitting first responders.

"They're lit up like a Christmas tree," said Battalion Chief Robert McWilliams with the Irving Fire Department. "Hopefully they get people's attention. These things are parked at an angle at an accident scene."

Irving Fire Dept. Blocker Engine
Irving Fire Dept. Blocker Engine (CBS 11)

Many drivers are profoundly distracted by their phones when they're going past first responders working accidents on the roadways.

Research in 2019 from the National Safety Council found 71% of drivers admitted to taking photos and texting while driving by emergency workers; that's nearly triple the 24% who admitted to doing it under normal driving conditions.

Sixty percent admitted to posting to social media; two-thirds have emailed about what they're driving by.

"Distracted drivers, the speed they have on the roadways nowadays – this is the most dangerous part of our job," McWilliams said.

The blockers serve as a first line of defense.

"That hopefully will protect not only our million-dollar ladder trucks, but police officers that are on scene, wrecker drivers, EMS and so forth," said Irving Fire Chief Victor Conley.

In March of 2019, a blocker saved the lives of a dozen Irving police officers when a car slammed into it.

"I mean we're talking about a multi-ton fire pumper apparatus that was totaled because someone wasn't paying attention," Chief Conley said.

With distracted driving on the rise, firefighters ask people to pay attention and slow down.

"Just be thankful it's not you in that incident we're trying to help," the chief said. "You're going to get past us."

Texas does have a "move over" law, which means drivers must slow down and move to the other lane when they see any police, fire or other emergency vehicle with their lights flashing.

If you don't, you could be hit with fines of up to $2,000.

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