UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: EMS

Title: What are risk factors in ambulance crashes?

Keywords: ambulance, crash, response, fatality, collision (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/22/2023 by Jennifer Guyther, MD
Click here to contact Jennifer Guyther, MD

Between 2010 and 2020, there were 279 fatalities related to ambulance accidents.  In up to 50% of accidents, EMS is not at fault.  The use of lights and sirens and intersections have been previously shown to be the most common risk factor for accidents.  There is a national push for a more judicious use of lights and sirens.  
Most ambulance crashes are minor, but up to 1/3 of crashes can result in significant injury or significant damage to the vehicle.  This study attempted to relate driver demographics and aggressive driving behavior to ambulance crashes using a vehicle telematics system.  The agency in this study responded to about 130,000 calls per year and the incident rate of any crash was 2.1/100,000 miles and the incident rate of a serious crash was 0.63/100,000 miles.  Injuries occured in 8% of the 214 crashes over the 3 year study period.  One third of the cases resulted in significant vehicle damage.  Female sex and age 18-24 were found to be independently associated with a collision.
Bottom line: Transporting patients via ambulance, especially when lights and sirens are used, is not a risk free event.  Even if injuries do not occur, the impact of damage to the vehicle can significantly impact the EMS system.



Prehosp Emerg Care. 2023;27(4):455-464. doi:10.1080/10903127.2022.2163327