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Home > Topics > Ambulances / Emergency Vehicles
December 12, 2013
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Ambulance crashes: Stop the carnage

Get to the hospital safely: Plan your transport, drive safely for road conditions, and buckle everyone up

By Arthur Hsieh

We seem to be experiencing yet another spate of vehicle crashes, with many resulting in serious injury or death. Despite a rise in vehicle safety awareness, ambulance crashes continue to happen at an alarming rate.

Considering that a large part of the country is experiencing early wintery conditions, the need to be extra careful out there is paramount. Take a moment to think about your ability to operate your rig, and perform the following mental checklist:


  • Are you ready? Are you alert and prepared to handle your multi-ton vehicle that is difficult to control under emergency conditions and designed to roll over during abrupt vehicle maneuvers? That has to be your mindset when you get behind the wheel; if it’s not, the complacency that replaces that mindset is apt to hurt or kill you — or someone else.
  • Is all safety gear engaged? That means seatbelts for everyone, especially the patient. I know a lot of folks don’t want to use the chest and shoulder harness on their patients, so they tuck the straps behind the gurney pad. That is simply wrong. And I know many of us don’t wear our seatbelts in the back either, citing the need to move around the unit. Let’s be honest here: Are you moving around because you have to, or because you didn’t preplan the transportation phase? If everything you need is close to you, that minimizes the need to move about the compartment. And if you’re not going to provide any care during transport, there’s simply no reason to not buckle up.
  • Are you traveling at the right speed? We know that the time saved by emergency driving is too insignificant to alter patient outcomes. We also know that other drivers out there have a difficult time responding to sudden changes in conditions — i.e., an emergency vehicle suddenly appearing in their rear view mirror. Add in poor driving conditions associated with winter weather and the need to not speed becomes paramount.

Our jobs are unpredictable and dangerous. Let’s not worsen that by our own carelessness and complacency.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. In the profession since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a published textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at a rural hospital-based ALS system. Contact Art at
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