A 2018 report by a leading group of trial lawyers shows that accidents involving emergency vehicles—such as fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars—are a substantial problem in the United States.
Vehicle fatality rates for emergency responders are estimated to be up to 4.8 times higher than the national average. Because emergency vehicles are traveling at higher speeds to reach crisis situations, accidents often result in severe injury or death.
There are an estimated 6,500 accidents involving ambulances each year. 35% of crashes resulted in injury or fatality to at least 1 occupant of a vehicle involved.
When injuries occur, there are, on average, three unique injuries per accident. On average, 29 fatal ambulance accidents produce 33 fatalities each year.
Significant efforts are underway to better understand the causes and effects of crashes to help identify ways of keeping both patients and practitioners as safe as possible.
The NHTSA has released its guidance on ambulance safety for patients and providers.
Since 1975, NHTSA has collected information on every fatal crash in the country through the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Through NHTSA’s General Estimates System (GES) program, a nationally-representative sample of police-reported crashes across the country is collected, and estimate the number of total crashes resulting in injuries, including those involving ambulances.
The program determines whether people killed or injured were drivers or passengers in the ambulances involved in crashes, but work is still ongoing to collect consistent data on whether they were patients, providers or neither, such as patient family members.
The guidance also shows that drowsy or fatigued EMS providers are substantially more likely to be injured on the job, commit a medical error, or perform a safety-compromising behavior while driving.
This year, NHTSA’s Office of Behavioral Safety Research will begin bringing together fatigue experts and EMS stakeholders to help improve fatigue-related guidelines, scheduling, and reporting in EMS.
Effective driver training remains a top priority for EMS agencies across the country.
NHTSA’s Office of Behavioral Safety Research is currently conducting a nationwide review of emergency vehicle operator training practices.