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Video: Assessing and preventing emergency vehicle crashes

In this video, Gordon Graham details two interventions that are successful in reducing emergency responder vehicle crashes

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for all emergency service personnel. Today I want to talk a topic near and dear to my heart, emergency service vehicle crashes.

Here’s some data for you. According to recent estimates, on-duty emergency service personnel experience traffic-related fatalities, are you ready for this? Four times more often than the national average. That is a sobering statistic. A recent study identified risk factors involved in emergency vehicle crashes and put them into four major groups: driver-related, task-related, vehicle-related, and environment-related. Each of these groups includes individual risk factors.

What are some of the risk factors that contribute to crashes? When we look at statistics for the driving public as a whole, age and gender stand out. You know that. The insurance companies know that. Young, male drivers have a much higher rate of crashes than other groups.

But when it comes to crashes involving emergency responders, those trends disappear. They don’t hold up. Instead, two things stand out as predictors of an emergency vehicle being involved crash. Those two factors are: 1) aggressive driving behavior and 2) having been in a previous crash. In some departments, a very small number of law enforcement officers, firefighters, or EMS members are responsible for a very high percentage of the crashes.

Now, if you’re familiar with my Today’s Tips or my live lectures, you know my focus is risk management. So how do we manage this risk? Research points to two interventions that are successful in reducing emergency responder vehicle crashes. The first is a formal and robust driver training program that includes classroom, field training, and vehicle-specific training elements, coupled with scheduled refresher training.

The second is a systematic process of assessing what causes vehicle crashes in your agency. Then designing policies and procedures, I love to call them control measures, to address those risks. One example is a policy that mandates a spotter every time emergency service personnel are backing up anything larger than a passenger vehicle. Often, such measures can be far more effective than expensive technologies.

We’ll never be able to prevent all crashes involving emergency vehicles. There are too many factors out of our control. Other bad drivers. Driver experience. Driver distraction. Weather. The type of lighting on our vehicles. But we can reduce the risk by employing solid principles of risk assessment and training. And these are not “one and done” activities but must be continuous processes.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.