I felt that you must not live in a city, and you verified that. I live in the densely populated Los Angeles area, and quite frequently, while I’m driving on a local, multiple lane divided highway in the middle of a city, I hear the sirens and move over to the right in anticipation, because very often a large truck or even a van blocks my view even while checking all three of my rearview mirrors.
Just yesterday, I was stopped at a traffic light second in line behind a large SUV. I heard a siren and looked around but couldn’t see anything, Then it came into view. It was a fire rescue vehicle coming in the opposite direction. The street was divided with three lanes and a left turn lane in each direction. The light was red. There were about four cars in each lane including the left turn lane. The truck, with flashing lights and siren was behind them and couldn’t get around them. Since the light was red, they were stuck. After a few moments, the first drivers in two of the lanes cautiously drove through the intersection being careful of the cross-traffic which couldn’t see the fire-truck because of buildings at the corners. finally, enough of the other drivers caught on and did the same so the emergency vehicle got through. I’m quite certain that most of the drivers at or near the front in those lanes would have had their vision blocked so they wouldn’t have seen the vehicle. The siren was the important clue that helped them know that they had to do something.
There are enough different necessary items to observe as well as distractions like signs, other drivers, one’s own radio, etc. that it’s important that emergency vehicles use both vision and hearing to announce their presence.
Yes, there are occasional accidents where a driver or emergency vehicle personnel are injured or killed, but using a very large sample, I’d say that the number of people saved far, far, far outweigh these very rare problems.
Your argument that often the emergency isn’t life threatening may be, but it’s very seldom that the emergency personnel or the caller know that. When I had my heart attack, I called my doctor who told me to call 911 immediately. I did so, grabbed an aspirin, chewed it, grabbed a small backpack, threw in a couple of underwear changes, a few paperback books, paper and writing instruments, small radio and earphones, then went out to the curb, heard the ambulance coming from the next street over, and they took me to the hospital. I wasn’t panicked and it was only a moderate coronary incident, but they didn’t know that. I could easily been close to death. So, yes, sirens are quite necessary.
I’m sorry, if the noise offends your bucolic sensitivities, but my only suggestion is rather than moving closer to the cities, move farther from any roads and avoid using them.