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Ambulance on blue lights tailgated by driver in a rush and on the phone - Christmas warning for road users

By Jonny Bell

An ambulance driving instructor has detailed some of the incredibly stupid driving witnessed on Northern Ireland roads in a pre-Christmas warning to motorists.

Seamus McAllister said that over recent weeks he has been "shocked" at seeing people using their phones while driving at high speed.

One instance, saw an ambulance using its blue lights being tailgated. The driver pulled over to allow the man to pass only to see that he was texting on his phone.

In another incident they passed a woman who had her phone in the middle of the steering wheel while scrolling through a social media site, all while at 70mph on the motorway.

"Wise up," said Seamus.

"We don't want to see an empty chair at any Christmas dinner this year."

Friday was one of the busiest days on the road which resulted in a number of crashes across Northern Ireland including one very serious incident on the M1.

By mid-afternoon paramedics had responded to 10 incidents.

It comes after the Ambulance Service dealt with 33 crashes on the road on Wednesday alone.

So far this year 66 people have died on Northern Ireland's roads.

Ambulance Service spokesman John McPoland said they were seeing an increase in single-vehicle road crashes which could be explained by drivers possibly not paying attention by being on their phones.

"But that may not be the cause," he said, "that's up to the police to investigate.

"On Wednesday I was amazed to see that there were 33 call outs for road collisions. The usual average is between 12 and 13. 

"It's that time of year people are rushing about and their patience is wearing thin and we just appeal to all to take extra care, look after yourself and other road users"

Mr McPoland said the Ambulance Service and its partner agencies had witnessed an increase of people using their phone behind the wheel and at speed.

"Travelling at 70mph and taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds can be catastrophic. The distance you can travel in that time alone is scary, you just have no time to react.

"There is no message, or no call that is that important. And if you do think it is that important then wait to the next safe place to pull over to check.

"We want to avoid bringing sadness to any family with a death, especially at this time of year.

"While a car is a useful thing to get you to and from work, some don't realise it is a very dangerous weapon and no one gets the chance to rewind, to restart their day.

"The consequences can be life changing.

"So we appeal to people, resist the temptation to check the phone and if you can't turn it off."

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