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Thinking ‘Outside the Box’Top 4 Reasons Ambulance Crashes Occur & How to Mitigate Risk of Injury

Thinking ‘Outside the Box’

Top 4 Reasons Ambulance Crashes Occur & How to Mitigate Risk of Injury

By: John Kustuch, EMT-P, FF, I/C and Previous Director of Operations for MMR


The alarm sounds, the medics jump in the truck, and they head out on a call in hopes they can either help or save a life. Sometimes they don’t know what to expect. Sometimes they know exactly what to expect.  Either way, it’s never without risk.

One of the greatest risks of injuries to medics happens before they even get to the scene. Every year, 4,500 ambulances in the U.S. are involved in a crash, or eight percent of all ambulances on the road.   Those crashes lead to 1500 injuries involving patients, providers and drivers and 45 fatalities. The costs associated with such crashes are astronomical. Costs our industry simply can’t afford.

Download our infographic for more data


Below are the top four reasons why crashes occur in the first place and how agencies can help to mitigate those risks.


You train, you retrain, you implement regular reminders of driving best practices. But once that crew hits the road, how much do you really know? Unsafe driving behaviors, most of which are unintentional, account for a majority of vehicle crashes. When you add vehicle weight and size to the mix, the ambulance becomes a potentially lethal object on the road.

“It’s really hard to follow an ambulance and catch someone driving too fast down the road or braking too hard at the intersection. I was a paramedic and I know what you can and can’t get away with.  Typically, you have to rely on your crews’ best behavior,” says Dave Grovdahl, Director of LeFlore Co. EMS in eastern Oklahoma.

Watch this video to hear more about managing driving behavior from Dave Grovdahl.

Vehicle intelligence monitoring systems, such as Ferno’s ACETECH Integrated Vehicle Intelligence System, monitor not only the health of the vehicle, but driving behaviors. Unlike other systems which are disciplinary, ACETECH seeks to educate and empower drivers to learn and practice better habits, even warning them of an unsafe behavior before the system records their action for later reporting.


EMS crews are creatures of habit. In the U.S., studies have shown medics frequently deliver care unseated and unrestrained. Often, the need to help the patient or reach for supplies forces medics out of their seats in a mobile environment.

But it doesn’t have to.

“We are starting to finally address the situation that we are killing too many of our own people in wrecks for silly things like not wearing a seatbelt,” says Mike McCart, Deputy Chief of Pulaski Co. EMS in Missouri. “So we wanted to design a vehicle that would allow the medic to be restrained at all times, then figure out how they’d be able to access the things they needed most immediately without getting up, and still reach the patient,” he added.

The resulting solution utilized the Ferno iN∫TRAXX™ Integrated Vehicle Component System. The system features tracks mounted to the ambulance walls with a series of modular, interchangeable SafePak Supply Walls and SafeMount Equipment Mounts, allowing medics to deliver the full range of patient care while seated and restrained.  The system also saves agencies money by providing more efficient management of inventory and supplies in a customizable layout.


One of the most immediate changes an agency can make to help reduce risk is to do an inventory audit.  Anything not in a designated mount is a potential projectile and needs to be secured.  Equipment like defibrillators, suction pumps, cylinders, and tough books should all be mounted in a secure location for the medic’s safety.



The Ambulance Manufacturers Division (AMD) of the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) is working in collaboration with NIOSH on developing a cabinet test method to ensure objects inside the cabinet are contained within the enclosure at all times. This includes anything stored inside a cabinet that could become a projectile during a crash and harm the occupants.

iN∫TRAXX™ minimizes the need for cabinets by replacing them with soft-sided, interchangeable storage components and ensuring all equipment is safely secured. The system is dynamically tested and fully compliant to the SAE J3043 testing requirements.

Click here to see what happens to occupants in an ambulance crash

and here to see the impact of cabinets on medics

In summary, “There is a greater awareness from regulators that something needs to be done,” said Steve Spata, Technical Assistance Director of NTEA. “There have never been federal ambulance standards. That has always been left up to the states, and regulators have to justify any new regulations that they put in place.  Now we have the research and the test methods that can be referenced in new regulations,” he added. Ferno’s Integrated Patient Transport System with iN∫TRAXX, iN∫X and ACETECH puts the research into practice to keep medics safe and make sure everyone goes home at the end of the day.

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