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Chicago ambulance tech in North Side crash was driving drunk

Drivers are conditioned to pull over for light-and-siren activated emergency vehicles in Cook County traffic. Motorists assume emergency vehicle drivers are trained, licensed and competent. After all, everything police, firefighters and paramedics do focuses on saving lives, not endangering them.

A 31-year-old driver was arrested after the ambulance he was driving struck a pickup truck on Chicago's North Side. A driver behind the ambulance in Sheridan Park traffic said the vehicle's sirens and lights were on as the ambulance plowed through the intersection without stopping.

The ambulance struck the pickup's passenger side. A witness, the same driver who was behind the ambulance, said the truck driver was treated at the scene but did not elaborate on the injuries the driver suffered or whether the 43-year-old man was hospitalized.

Police reported the Lockport emergency medical technician looked and sounded intoxicated, a suspicion that was verified later by the results of a hospital test. The ambulance driver's blood alcohol content level was above 0.27 percent, more than triple the legal limit. The man also had no clear explanation about why he was driving the ambulance.

Investigators arrested and charged the Cook County driver with DUI resulting in injury, failing to slow down, running a red light and a driver's license violation. Bail was set at $300,000.

Reports said the ambulance driver, a state-licensed EMT since 2011, had a 2007 DUI arrest and multiple stops for unlicensed driving. He was arrested on forgery and firearms charges and later went to prison for violating parole, following a conviction for impersonating an officer.

The State of Illinois does not require companies to screen the backgrounds of EMTs before hiring them.

The title or profession of a negligent driver offers no protection from penalties in a court of law. A criminal case often parallels a separate liability claim in civil court, where personal injury and wrongful death victims may receive financial relief.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Ambulance driver charged with DUI after crash" Rosemary Regina Sobol and Kim Geiger, Dec. 11, 2013

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