The burnt out shell of a bus that burst into flames on the N1. It was en route to Zimbabwe and 17 people were injured. Picture: @Zvomuya Twitter

Johannesburg - Paramedics trying to get to a burning bus the N1 on Wednesday morning were stuck in traffic and unable to get to the distressed passengers on time due to motorists using the emergency lane.

The long distance bus en route to Zimbabwe from Cape Town went up in flames during peak hour traffic near the William Nicol offramp but different emergency services companies encountered difficulties getting to the scene on time.

According to Emer-G-Med said, the bus caught fire after a front tyre burst. The driver then stopped the bus and as he alighted, the smoke spread to the rest of the vehicle.

This resulted in passengers rushing to get off and 17 were injured in the process.

Johannesburg Emergency Services' Nana Radebe said they took longer to get to scene because not only were there cars in the emergency lane but others motorists were watching the fire and therefore slowing traffic.

Radebe said people needed to refrain from doing that as it was delaying them from getting to people who need help on time.

"When you come across an accident, report it and try to move so that you don't cause congestion. The spectator effect adds to delays when emergency vehicles try to get to the scene," she said.

Russel Meiring's ER24 confirmed that they also tried to get to the scene but had difficulty getting there.

He urged motorists to refrain from using the emergency lane and to make way for emergency vehicles saying all that they were trying to do was to get to people who are in a medical emergency and can't help themselves.

"It may seem like emergency vehicle drivers are reckless, impatient and rude, but we are only trying to do what we can to get to the scene of an emergency as quickly as we can as mere minutes may mean the difference between life and death.

"We urge the public on our roads to consider being more forgiving towards us. A general rule to follow when you notice an ambulance in free flowing traffic is to move into the left hand lane and reduce your speed.

"Also be considerate to those drivers around you, allowing them to move into your lane where you can and if it is safe to do so. If traffic is at a standstill, the ambulance driver will generally indicate where he finds it best to pass.

"If you notice that the other vehicles have been moving over to either side of the road, simply follow their lead. If there really is no option for you to move out of the way, try and stay calm, the driver of the ambulance will be one step ahead, and once traffic starts to move forward he will continue on.

"So next time you see an ambulance on the road, please let us pass you in traffic and try and make way for us to get to our intended destination."

The Star