A driver trying to get out of the way of a pair of ambulances Sunday morning in Lanham, Md., smashed into a curb and flipped his SUV, which caught fire, authorities said. He then had to be cut from the mangled vehicle and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

The man, in his late 40s, was driving down Riverdale Road when he heard the sirens about a block away and “moved to the right shoulder quite quickly and at a fairly high rate of speed,” according to Prince George’s County Fire spokesman Mark Brady. An emergency worker estimated the Ford SUV hit the curb going 35 to 40 miles per hour.

“There’s a tendency to panic,” Brady said.

An emergency crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, and another team was brought in with heavy hydraulic equipment to pry open the car to pull the man out, Brady said. The injuries are not life-threatening, he said.

The paramedic unit and a basic life-support vehicle had been headed to New Carrollton, where an adult male was having trouble breathing. A fire engine and its crew already were treating the original patient when the SUV crashed, Brady said. The fire-fighters strapped the patient with the breathing difficulties into one of their own seats and took him to the hospital themselves. The paramedics ended up taking the SUV’s driver.

Brady said when motorists see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles they should pull over in a “calm and controlled manner” to the nearest curb, either on the right or the left. Among the things they shouldn’t do: stop abruptly, stop in the middle of the road, try to outrun the units or veer toward the curb, Brady said.

“We see you in front of us. We’re waiting for some direction from you,” Brady said. “Let us know what you’re doing by using your blinkers. . . . The biggest thing is to remain calm.”