The driver is in charge of a lot more than just driving. The ambulances where I'm at have little Garmin navigation units in them but we also have map books that are a lot more detailed. There are plenty of places that are still hard to figure out, though. If you see an ambulance that looks lost or you know your place isn't clearly marked, then we probably need some guidance.
The driver is in direct radio contact with the 911 center. When we're on the way to an emergency, we get a short brief of what's going on so we can know in advance what to take inside with us (oxygen, backboard, etc).
The driver has to figure out where to park the ambulance so we can:
-get the patient in and out easily
-we can exit quickly if we need to
-we don't block the entrance for firefighters, law enforcement, paramedic trucks
-avoid any hazards or unsafe situations
They help radio 911 so we can get additional help from the fire dept or a helicopter.
Again, they have to try to drive smoothly enough that we aren't stabbing people with IV's in the back.
Then there's the emotional component. It takes a lot of experience to avoid flooring it when there's a baby coming RIGHT NOW or someone's heart just stopped beating but they have to drive a safe, manageable speed.
And we go on a lot of calls that get answered by other departments or are cancelled right after everyone moves out of the way for us. We always feel a little bad about that but we absolutely cannot drive with lights and sirens on unless we are on the way to an emergency or are a high priority trip to the hospital so we have to just turn off our lights and turn around. Trust me, people around town are watching and we tattle on each other. We have to shut our lights and sirens off when crossing the Thomas Johnson Bridge so we don't freak anyone out. I was once upfront in the ambulance when we shut the sirens off but not the lights in the middle of the night when we didn't even see anyone else on the bridge but we were counseled about it by 8am the next morning because someone knew. I don't know how but they knew.
Also, certain calls are required to be cleared by law enforcement before we can show up so you may see us go lights and sirens into a parking lot, shut down, then turn everything back on and get going again. Weird but there's a method to that madness.
When I'm upfront with the driver then I am doing my best to help out as much as possible but I'm also prepping to hit the ground running as soon as we show up on scene.