He was recklessly tailgating
The ambulance was taking a cardiac arrest patient from his Jurong home to hospital on Tuesday. As the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) was heavily congested, the ambulance, with its sirens blaring, went onto the road shoulder to overtake other vehicles.
The driver of a Mercedes-Benz CLS took advantage of the situation, tailgating the ambulance so he could also get past other vehicles.
Having seen too many motorists follow ambulances closely as a way of getting out of traffic jams, paramedic Ong Wee Chee, who was in the ambulance, took a video of the incident and posted it on his Facebook account.
He also sent the video to the Singapore Reckless Drivers (SRD) online community, and the video had garnered more than 230 "likes" and 360 "shares" on the SRD Facebook page as of press time.
Some of those who saw the video slammed the Mercedes driver and called for the police to crack down on such "impatient" drivers.
Mr Ong, 23, told The New Paper that the Singapore Emergency Medical Care Training and Services (SMCT) ambulance was taking the cardiac arrest patient to the Singapore General Hospital at about 11.30am when the incident happened.
As the AYE heading towards the city was congested, Mr Ong, as the paramedic-in-charge, told the driver to go onto the road shoulder.
Mr Ong, another medic and a registered nurse monitored the patient, who was on a device that automatically performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation and was being ventilated.
Then the ambulance driver told him that someone was tailgating them.
Mr Ong recounted: "I looked out and saw the car travelling not more than two car lengths behind.
"I had to keep my cool and told the driver not to brake suddenly as there was a car right behind, and it was too close for comfort.
"If we had slowed down suddenly, there was a high chance that the Mercedes would ram into our rear."
As the ambulance maintained its speed of about 90kmh, Mr Ong activated a GoPro rear-facing camera inside the ambulance to capture the Mercedes tailgating it.
He later submitted the footage to his manager, who passed it to the Land Transport Authority.
Mr Ong added: "I put the video up to remind drivers who drive recklessly and tailgate an ambulance at high speed that there are lives at stake inside the ambulance."
An SMCT spokesman said that as a private emergency ambulance operator, it sometimes faces situations where drivers fail to give way or challenge them by speeding and hogging the road. (See report on facing page.)
Some drivers park their vehicles right behind their ambulances, making it impossible to open the back door to load the patient, he said.
All such cases will be referred to the Traffic Police for investigation.
The SMCT spokesman added: "Besides the Singapore Civil Defence Force, private emergency ambulance companies like us also cater to trauma and medical emergencies.
"We urge the public to give way to emergency vehicles so we can save time to save precious lives."
A police spokesman said that tailgating, while an "undesirable road behaviour", is not a specific offence under the Road Traffic Act.
However, if an accident were to occur as a result of tailgating, the driver responsible for the accident may be reported for a case of careless driving, he said.
The spokesman added that based on the video, the Mercedes driver could have committed an offence of driving on the shoulder of an expressway.
Illegal travelling on the road shoulder carries a fine of up to $180 and six demerit points.
I put the video up to remind drivers who drive recklessly and tailgate an ambulance at high speed that there are lives at stake inside the ambulance.
- Paramedic Ong Wee Chee on why he posted the video of a Mercedes-Benz tailgating the ambulance he was in.
TOUGH TO BE AMBULANCE DRIVER
Mr Christopher Bek, director of operations for private ambulance operator Medic Network, said that tailgating an ambulance places stress on the ambulance driver.
"The driver then has to watch out for the safety of the (tailgating) vehicle, on top of other vehicles that might cut in," he said.
Mr Bek, who drove ambulances for more than 10 years, said his drivers usually deal with the problem by slowing down, sometimes winding down the window and looking at the offending driver.
That is usually enough to get them to back off, he said.
NOT GIVING WAY
A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said one ambulance obstruction case was submitted to the Traffic Police last year, with three similar cases submitted in 2012.
SCDF ambulances have been equipped with video cameras since 2002 and video footage of obstructions are sent to the Traffic Police for investigation.
Some drivers would not give way to ambulances, even with sirens blaring.
But after the ambulance waits for one to two minutes without provoking them, the drivers usually get the point and move aside, said Mr Jonathan Koh, chief executive of Lentor Ambulance.
But some do so grudgingly and look annoyed, he said.
"Sometimes, they flash rude hand gestures like the middle finger and suggest with their heads that they're looking for a fight," he added.