For safety’s sake: Wheatley Pond Paramedic Station will receive emergency lights

SMYRNA — The volume of traffic on Del. 300 that runs past the Wheatley Pond Paramedic Station in west Smyrna has increased substantially since the 1980s, when the station first opened.

That’s why Kent County Levy Court President P. Brooks Banta and Vice President Terry Pepper, along with Chief Colin Faulkner, director of Emergency Management for Kent County, were so excited about the upcoming installation of flashing emergency lights that will soon be installed in front of the Wheatley Pond Paramedic Station.

“If the lights were installed in front of the station yesterday, that wouldn’t be fast enough for us,” Chief Faulkner said.

“This is really important to us. When we constructed that station the demographics and traffic patterns in that area weren’t what they are today.

“There was no Wal-Mart Distribution Center or anything else in that area. So, this is something that is much needed for the safety of our paramedics and other drivers out on the road.”

Chief Faulkner said the Delaware Department of Transportation tentatively expects the flashing lights – which will work like those in front of fire stations – to be installed by the end of October.

Just like flashing red lights operating outside a fire station where motorists must stop, the same will soon be true for emergency vehicles.

Chief Faulkner pointed out that in 1985, DelDOT traffic counts at the intersection of Carter Road and Wheatleys Pond Road averaged 350 to 500 vehicles per day.

Today, the volume of traffic at that same intersection, just east of the paramedic station, has grown immensely to 9,000 to 11,000 vehicles per day.

Emergency vehicles enter and exit the Wheatley Pond Paramedic Station at least 5,000 times a year.

Sen. Bruce Ennis and Rep. William Carson attended last week’s announcement regarding the upcoming installation of flashing lights that will warn drivers in front of the paramedic station.

Sen. Ennis and Rep. Carson will be contributing to the DelDOT project with their Community Transportation Funds.

“We are proud to announce that with the help of Senator Bruce Ennis and Representative William Carson, this dangerous situation will soon be addressed,” Commissioner Banta said.

Because there is not a driveway at the station, flashing lights will not only protect paramedics leaving the station, but also motorists and pedestrians, and will serve as a warning that an emergency vehicle is leaving the station.

“We started hearing there were some challenges for the paramedics and led us to where we were last week in announcing that a traffic signal was going to be placed there to warn motorists there were paramedics exiting the station,” Chief Faulkner said.

He added that the lights will certainly be a welcome addition considering the number of accidents that occur nationally each year between motorists and emergency vehicles.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, accidents involving ambulances and other emergency vehicles cause about 33 fatalities each year.

Over a 20-year period in which statistics were compiled, an estimated 4,500 accidents involving ambulances occurred each year, injuring thousands. It was estimated that around 60 percent of ambulance accidents occurred during emergency use and for a variety of reasons.

“There are thousands and thousands of accidents each year involving ambulances and fire trucks, not to mention police cars, and paramedics probably count in that category,” said Chief Faulkner. “We’re just staying ahead of the game here and trying to prevent something that might happen between us and the citizens using that roadway.”

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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