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Ditching ambulance lights & sirens to make emergencies safer

Officials in Berrien County have a new mandate in place that they say will protect first responders and paramedics while they're on the road. They say the telltale flashing lights and blaring sirens are more of a distraction to other drivers, so they are advising their first responders to get rid of them.

The Berrien County Medical Control Authority said there are more than 4,500 crashes every year that involve an ambulance. Officials cite data that says many of those accidents were caused by the use of emergency lights and sirens.

People living in Berrien County were shocked to learn of the new mandate. "Very hard to believe. How would you know to get out of the way if you don't see them?" said St. Joseph resident June Bowman.

But using the lights doesn't seem to help paramedics get to where they need to be any faster, according to medical authority chairwoman Mary Ann Prater.

Some residents disagreed. "People don't pay enough attention as they're driving. They're distracted by other things, and that's obviously an absolutely perfect way to let them know there is an emergency and they do need to get out of the way," said Ted, a St. Joseph resident.

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