SEREMBAN: Ambulance drivers ferrying patients during an emergency are not exempted from the speed limit and other traffic rules.
They are also required to switch on their beacon lights and sirens only “if it is absolutely necessary”, said Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman.
Elaborating, he said despite attending to an emergency, ambulance drivers will have to stop when the traffic lights turn red, or where there is a “stop” sign before proceeding.
“They cannot, at any time, go against the traffic flow - unless they have prior approval,” he said in a recent directive.
The use of the lights and the beacon is allowed only on the basis of the patient's condition and not at the discretion of the ambulance driver.
“The drivers should be told that even if they have the lights and the beacon switched on, they would still have to obey traffic rules,” Dr Hasan said, adding that when a driver switches on the beacon lights and siren, it is not a licence to flout traffic laws but merely to let other motorists know he should be given priority of passage.
He added that the drivers should know the best possible way to get to the scene (of a crisis) and back to the hospital, especially during peak hours.
On a related matter, he said ambulance drivers cannot be asked to work more than 12 hours at a stretch.
“They should then be given a 12-hour break before resuming duties.”
In the event a patient needs to be taken to a destination more than four hours away, Dr Hasan said there should be two drivers in the ambulance.
He said the ministry had directed all government ambulance drivers to go through a defensive driving course so as to better understand the workings of their vehicle.
They would be given a certificate, which must be renewed every two years.
Dr Hasan said that during the course, the drivers would be briefed on the risks of driving an ambulance, factors to look out for when at the wheel as well as standard operating procedures and checks to ensure the vehicle's roadworthiness.