Emergency workers are committed to keeping the public safe, but the nature of their jobs often put them in peril. From fighting fires to combating criminals, emergency responders face a number of dangers in their daily duties.
While many of the dangers are readily apparent, what’s too often overlooked is the danger that workers are in when they’re behind the wheel. Yet for both firefighters and law enforcement professionals, roadway incidents were the second leading cause of death from 2011 to 2015. For firefighters, only fires were responsible for more deaths, and acts of violence such as shootings were the No. 1 cause of death for police officers.
A study published in the April 2018 journal Accident Analysis and Prevention found that police vehicles were 1.8 times more likely to crash when driving in emergency mode, meaning they have lights and signals activated. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also found that emergency responders faced an increased risk of crashes, with an estimated 4,500 ambulance-involved crashes happening every year.
Of those, 34% result in injuries and an average of 33 people are killed each year as the result of an ambulance crash. Since ambulance occupants typically are not wearing seatbelts, they tend to have more severe injuries and a greater risk of fatalities. In fact, 45% of job-related deaths among emergency medical services workers are the result of highway incidents, primarily crashes, according to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services.
Resolving these on-the-job and behind-the-wheel dangers begin with identifying why they occur and implementing the training and awareness programs needed to change behaviors. Here are three primary factors affecting first responder driving safety.