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Ambulance Chasing

Tales of the Old Central Artery

A dangerous driving behavior on the old Central Artery and in the Sumner Tunnel was ambulance chasing.

Stop and go traffic would be traveling through the Sumner Tunnel during morning rush hour, and an ambulance with sirens blaring would enter the tunnel in the left lane. Most drivers would quickly yield the left lane by crossing over to the right. The right lane drivers were usually extremely polite in such situations, and made space for cars to cross over in front of them.

The experience was unnerving to the novice driver; during summer many vehicles had their windows open, and the swiftly moving ambulance would electronically beep with its sirens blaring, which echoed off the walls in the tunnel.

The dangerous driving behavior occurred when the ambulance passed by. There was a race to see who could get behind the ambulance first, and thus get a brisk "escort" through the gridlocked tunnel. It is illegal to cross the double white line in the center of the tunnel, but that did not deter many drivers.

Even more reckless, some drivers would not yield for the ambulance, and flashed their high beams and beeped their horns, to try and "escort" the ambulance through the tunnel.

On the northbound artery, ambulances would take the North Station or Storrow Drive exits. The artery was three lanes wide, and during gridlock situations, the ambulance would essentially create a fourth lane between the rightmost lane and the center lane.

Boston drivers thankfully yield to emergency vehicles, as they understand it could be someone they know in that ambulance. And we should commend the patience and skill of those inner-city EMTs!

The Big Dig System, aka The Sponge, has paid for itself with increased productivity and reduced air pollution; all $14 billion dollars' worth.

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