The new distracted driver safety problem

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) It is the universal sound of an emergency, and it's the law. Sirens blaring mean move out of the way, but police say drivers are increasingly not doing that.

Police are asking drivers to pay more attention on the road, especially when it comes to smaller emergency vehicles, like motorcycles.

Our crews saw an officer on a bike responding to a call in early June and witnessed drivers paying no attention, blocking him in traffic.

That prompted us to ask how common that is and what officers are doing about it.

Just about every day he gets the chance, Lt. John Rousseau chooses to patrol the streets and parks of Green Bay on a motorcycle.

"You're way more approachable on this. I have more minute and a half conversations with people at red lights than I ever did in a squad car," says Rousseau. "I can drive down the Fox River Trail. I can drive through some of the parks where we've gotten complaints about things before."

But it's what happens on the way to a call or emergency that's become frustrating.

"Ever since driver's ed, everybody's trained, when you see a police car or an emergency vehicle behind you, you slow down, pull over to the right and you stop. I think people get surprised, so they'll either stop in whatever lane they're in, they'll pull to the right or they'll just completely freeze and stop right there," describes Rousseau.

That's what we saw happen in downtown Green Bay as Rousseau was responding to a call of a person not breathing.

We were in oncoming traffic, heard his sirens and saw the flashing lights, but traffic in front of him did not.

"We were on our way to a medical assist call and the driver in front didn't see me, was looking at something else," recalls Rousseau.

After a few seconds, the driver did take notice, and Rousseau, shaking his head, pulled around him and got to his call. But he says any delay is dangerous.

"We have our lights and sirens on for a reason. That call was the one you happened to see, but that happens more often than not is where people don't see the flashing lights. They don't hear the siren. They don't pull over," says Rousseau.

Police blame distractions, like people focused on phones, GPS or loud radios.

They say it's an issue in squad cars, too, but because motorcycles are smaller, it's a bigger problem.

"The siren is as audible. The volume is the same as a squad car, so you certainly should be able to hear them. The lighting is all LED, so it's certainly bright enough to be seen," says Lt. Brad Strouf, who's in charge of the traffic unit.

Police are reminding drivers to be alert and move over, as is the law, no matter what emergency vehicle is behind them. They say officers are trained to be defensive drivers and look out for inattentive drivers, but they hope more awareness will prevent future delays in emergencies.