By Mai Martinez

(CBS) – In an emergency, we count on ambulances to get us to the hospital. But what if those ambulances are delayed?

It happens every day, and it could mean the difference between life and death.  CBS 2’s Mai Martinez rode along with Chicago paramedics to see what they’re up against.

It’s a law broken every day: drivers failing to yield to ambulances.

Even a Pace bus pulls out and turns in front of one. Violations can happen multiple times in one run.

A valet at Trump Tower delays an ambulance on its way to the ER with a patient not once, but twice, costing the paramedics 20 seconds.

Another 23 seconds is lost at an intersection.  Paramedic Field Chief Margie Bomben says those delays can be deadly.

“Maybe it’s just a few minutes here or a couple seconds there. It can cost someone their life,” she says.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital ER physician Rahul Khare agrees.

“They’re extremely important, even 30 seconds,” he says. “Their chance of surviving is immensely increased if they’re in the ER.”

It’s not just drivers who can slow down emergency vehicles.   Pedestrians can also cause delays, especially those on their phones or listening to music.

Chicago Police Traffic Unit Sgt. Scott Slavin says the pedestrians — like the drivers — are breaking the law and could be ticketed.

So what should drivers do when they hear a siren? Pull over to the right and get out of the way.

So, why wouldn’t a driver get out to the way of an ambulance?  After locating several drivers using their licenses plates, CBS 2 set out to ask. Only one was willing to talk about it on camera.

Victoria, a mother of six, watched video in disbelief. She said she was shocked it took her 10 seconds to get out of the way.

She was also saddened.

“I dated a guy in college that his dad died on the way to the hospital because people didn’t pull over,” she says.

She says she’ll be more careful to pull over when she hears sirens, rather than trying to figure out where it’s coming from.

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