CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - First responders rushing to emergencies say every second counts, which is why they're frustrated when drivers don't yield or move out of their way.
SC Highway Patrol Lance Corporal Matt Southern said, "One of the biggest things killing officers and first responders is being hit on the side of the road so that's why our move-over law is so important."
South Carolina's move-over law is simple: If you see flashing lights or emergency workers on the side of the road, you need to shift into the next lane over. If you can't safely shift lanes, you must significantly slow down.
SCHP Citations: Failure to Move-Over for Emergency Scene -- 2015: 129, 2016: 132, and 2017: 179
Emergency workers said ticket numbers only reflect a fraction of the violations they encounter daily. But they said there's only so much they can do to enforce this particular law because they're usually tied up at the original urgent emergency scene.
They aren't only struggling with people failing to move over.
Failing to yield and make room for approaching emergency vehicles is also against the law.
Charleston County EMS Division Chief Carl Fehr says getting to calls is a constant battle.
"It's something we see on a daily basis. Everybody's in a rush, everybody needs to be somewhere five minutes ago," he said.
By law, Fehr explained, all drivers on a two-lane road are required to pull to the right and stop when they see lights and hear sirens approaching.
"That is in both directions. So on a two-lane road, it's not only cars we're coming up behind but also the cars coming toward us," said Fehr.
On four-lane roads and highways it's a similar concept.
Drivers are to pull to right, slow down and start coming to a stop. Drivers on the other side of the road don't necessarily need to stop, but they do need to pay attention to where responders are trying to go.
SCHP Citations: Operation of vehicles on approach of authorized emergency vehicles -- 2015: 129, 2016: 132 and 2017: 179
Fehr said, "If traffic is really heavy and there's nowhere for you to go, there's nowhere for you to go. But at least ease over and try to create some sort of lane or path. That will really help us out."
He also asks that drivers be conscious not to block driveways or roadways when they pull to the right and stop.
"You never know if that's going to be where the ambulance is trying to go," he said.
"We see it constantly. It's hard getting through the intersection here," said Capt. Kevin Berkel with the St. Andrews Fire Department.
Station #1 is near the intersection of Highway 61 and Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, a notoriously busy spot for all drivers.
"Vehicles are tighter, they're quieter," said Berkel. "It's really hard to hear. Plus people have music going, or they're watching their cell phones, talking. It's just a lot of distractions."
Berkel said that 30 years ago, homes and furniture were built with natural materials and you had 17 to 20 minutes before materials hit what he called the flash-over stage.
"So you had a lot more time. But now it's down to three or four minutes until a house or a room can reach a flashover stage," he said. "So every minute, every second counts."
Many people don't realize these laws not only apply to fire, EMS and police but also to tow trucks.
Tow trucks and their flashing amber lights should be treated like any other emergency vehicle.
They're trying to get to scenes and clear roads, too.
"Ten law enforcement officers, four firefighters and forty to sixty tow truck drivers are killed per year on average from people hitting them on the road," Berkel said.
They all agree drivers aren't trying to be malicious or intentionally break the law.
They just don't know where to go or what to do and make instinctively slam on their brakes instead of merging right and stopping.
"Move over for us, give us the room that we need. If we can't get there, we can't help," said Southern.
Fehr added, "They may not know it but it could be their family member we're going to."