Wed, Feb 02, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Ambulances urged to install video recorders

BIRD WATCHING:The appeal made by the Taipei City Government comes after an incident last month in which a driver blocked an ambulance while giving it the finger

Staff writer, with CNA

An incident in which a man was recorded blocking an ambulance last month has prompted the Taipei City Government to urge all ambulance operators on Monday to install black box recording devices and speakers on their vehicles.

Taipei’s heavy traffic congestion and crowded streets often lead to accidents or disputes as ambulances try to rush patients to hospitals, and the city’s Department of Health argued that having the devices installed could provide extra security for everybody involved.

“Although there is no law requiring ambulances to have a video recorder installed, we highly encourage hospitals to do so, to protect the patient, the hospital, the driver and other motorists,” said Kao Wei-chun (高偉君), chief of the department’s medical division.

The black box recorder could provide important evidence when accidents occur or when the patient’s relatives have doubts about response times, Kao said.

The speakers can help ambulance drivers direct traffic and create openings to drive through.

“We have received complaints from motorists saying that they only hear a siren coming from behind and don’t know whether to move to the right or left,” she said, adding that most drivers are willing to give way, but lack the proper instructions.

The city may not be able to legally enforce the request, but Kao said it would try to get ambulance operators to comply by providing an incentive — adding the installation of black boxes and speakers to the city’s evaluation criteria of the vehicles.

Of the 194 registered ambulances run by the fire department and public and private hospitals, only seven have black box recorders and none have speakers.

Kao said the equipment is not found on most city ambulances because its cost and maintenance creates an unwelcome burden for financially strapped hospitals.

“We acknowledge that the management of an ambulance requires money and manpower, so we decided to promote the idea through the evaluation system,” she said.

Last month, video footage taken from an ambulance stopped by the 33-year-old man showed him blocking the vehicle, which was carrying an 86-year-old woman to the hospital.

He was seen flashing his middle finger at the ambulance after forcing it to make an emergency stop.

The incident caused public outrage and the man was charged with causing bodily harm and obstruction of official business, investigators said.

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