Ambulances & Vehicle Ops, Columns, Commentary, Operations

Where in the World of EMS is A.J. Heightman? At the National EMS Safety Summit

JEMS Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman is attending and presenting at the National EMS Safety Summit being held this week in Denver, Colo.

On day 1 of the summit, ambulance crash statistics were presented by David Bryson, BS, EMT, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services. Bryson presented compelling data on ground ambulance crashes, based on a review of 20 years of crash data. NHTSA reports that there has been an average of 4,500 MVAs involving ground ambulances, with an annual average of 29 fatal crashes and 1,500 injury crashes.

Some of the key data that was reported:

Of ambulance crashes:

  • 65% resulted in property damage (only)
  • 35% resulted in injury/injuries (with a mean average of 1,500 injuries annually)
  • <1% resulted in fatality/fatalities

There is an average of 29 fatal crashes involving ambulances annually, resulting in 33 fatalities:

  • 75% of the deaths involved people outside the ambulance
  • 21% of the deaths involved ambulance occupants
  • 4% of the deaths involved ambulance drivers


There are:

  • 12 MVA involving ambulances per day in the U.S.
  • 4 fatalities per month

Of injuries in ambulance crashes:

  • 17% involved ambulance operators/drivers
  • 54% of the people injured were outside the ambulance
  • 46% were in the ambulance

The most compelling data presented by NHTSA on 38 in-depth ambulance crash investigations was on the failure by EMS providers in the patient compartment to use safety belts.

  • 81% of the drivers involved in fatal crashes were restrained at the time of the crash
  • 80% of the of the EMS providers (non-drivers) WERE NOT wearing safety restraints at the time of the crash
  • 97% of patients were restrained at the time of the crash; however, 61% were secured with just a lap belt, only 33% secured via the shoulder/lap belt (harness) provided with the ambulance cots. And, shockingly, 3% were not secured at all.

It was also noted that over 5,000 ambulances involve in ambulances have been involved in a recall.

For more information, and are great sites to use to obtain for important safety and recall data

The infographic link to this data is:

Important note: A.J. and Nadine Levick, MD, also in attendance, point out that this data is not a true national snapshot because ambulance crash data remains very under-reported because it is still not mandated to be captured in every state. Therefore, this problem is much larger than the available data suggests, and all states should jump on board to make sure that all ambulance incidents are captured in their statewide data.

Ambulance safety: shoulder straps on Ferno stretcher

Shoulder straps like those pictured here typically come as standard issue on stretchers. Shockingly, some EMTs and paramedics are failing to use them properly, despite well-publicized incidents of injury and death related to ambulance vehicle crashes.