They have installed cameras in our ambulance just behind the rear view mirror. The camera records both the traffic in front of the ambulance and inside the front cab of the ambulance. It does not record the passenger compartment, and it (supposedly) is only a video recording. Audio would be illegal in our state.
The camera is programmed to record in the case of an accident or sudden deceleration or swerve. It can also turn on if the driver or front seat passenger hit a button on the device. The camera will capture 10 seconds before and 10 seconds after the incident. In normal function the camera displays a green light. It will turn red when activated.
If you get in an accident and the recording shows you were texting or talking on your cell phone, much less drinking a beer, then you will have to accept your fate.
If you are driving safely and a distracted driver swerves into you, then the recording will be to your benefit.
I have only set it off once so far.
We were driving back to the base after a twelve hour day. There was a car stopped in front of me, waiting to turn right, so I put my left turn signal on, and started to pull out into the lane. I saw in the distance in my side mirror a car suddenly speeding up to stop me from pulling out. I still pulled out as I had plenty of room. The other driver flashed his lights at me. I remarked to my partner how much I hated cars that did that — speed up to stop you from changing lanes. She agreed. “Sometimes,” I said. “I’d just like to roll my window down and give them the finger. And just say ‘F- you! F-you, asshole!’ But I can’t do that because I work for the company and we are a big traveling billboard.”
“Yes, we are,” she said, “A giant billboard.”
“Still,” I continued, as I pulled back into the right hand lane. “I just want to roll that window down and give them the bird. ‘F-you buddy!’” We both laughed at the thought.
Just then the man accelerated past us, and then swerved right in front of me. I hit the breaks, but since we were now on a downhill slope, I had to keep my foot on the break a little harder to stop. And I did stop, well before coming close to his bumper.
The red light went on.
A supervisor played the tape back for my partner. “What were guys laughing about?” he wanted to know.
Good thing there was no audio as it likely may have missed the context of our conversation. I wonder if lip-reading is admissible?
On a footnote, I recently read that there is a bill in the Maine legislature to require cameras in the passenger compartments of all ambulances.
Under the proposal, only medical control staff and law enforcement officials would be allowed to view the footage and tapes would be destroyed after three months. The purpose of the bill, according to its sponsor, would be to ensure that all patients were treated equally. It would protect EMS from unfounded complaints and would protect patients from poor medicine or untoward acts by EMS workers.
I don’t know if the bill has much chance of passing. Clearly there are privacy issues that would need to be clearly defined, but I suspect the day will come when cameras are a standard in the back of ambulances. I do believe the footage in most cases will be quite boring. On many calls, there will be a lot of tape of paramedics and EMTs sitting on the bench seat, typing on their computers, while carrying on small talk with their patients.