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Old 04-09-2018, 12:33 PM
Lamoral Lamoral is offline
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How often do emergency vehicles get into accidents?

Every day I see ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks hauling ass down the road, honking and shrieking with sirens, while masses of (mostly shitty) drivers frantically scramble to get out of the way. The guys who drive these vehicles must do this 10 times a day or more, every single day.

Yet I have NEVER seen an emergency vehicle crash or even bump into another vehicle, or a light pole, a parked car, etc.

Do these drivers have to go through advanced driving courses? Even if so, I'd think they'd occasionally crash - if not by their own fault, then by another driver's.

How often does it actually happen?
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Old 04-09-2018, 01:17 PM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is offline
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Here ya go.

Police cars crash at twice the per-mile rate of civilian cars.

I'm surprised at the percentage of crashes in "emergency mode" for ambulances and fire trucks; I thought it'd be much closer to 100%, since they generally aren't patrolling the roads in non-emergency mode like police cars do.
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Old 04-09-2018, 01:49 PM
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But they still have just as many miles in non-emergency mode as in emergency, because whenever they respond to an emergency, they have to go back to wherever they're based.
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Old 04-09-2018, 02:34 PM
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But they still have just as many miles in non-emergency mode as in emergency, because whenever they respond to an emergency, they have to go back to wherever they're based.
I would expect ambulances to perform some portion of their return trips in emergency mode, as they are occasionally hauling critical-condition patients to the hospital. The site I linked to claims that 60% of ambulance crashes happen while operating in emergency mode. If we assume that they spend 60% of their road miles operating in emergency mode (e.g. exceeding speed limits and passing through intersections against traffic signals), then it sure looks like emergency mode isn't all that dangerous, at least for ambulances.

For fire trucks, assume half of their miles (i.e. the outbound leg of every round trip) are conducted in emergency mode. The stat says 70% of their crashes happen in emergency mode, so I guess you're right, it does seem a little more dangerous for them.
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Old 04-09-2018, 02:50 PM
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I would expect ambulances to perform some portion of their return trips in emergency mode, as they are occasionally hauling critical-condition patients to the hospital.
Exactly so. I'd guess that most "service trips" for an ambulance are either:

a) Home base -> patient location -> medical facility (transporting patient) -> home base

b) Home base -> patient location -> home base

I might even guess that, for an actual ambulance (one that is built for transporting a patient, as opposed to an EMT / paramedic vehicle), the first type of trip is more common than the second.
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Old 04-09-2018, 02:54 PM
PastTense PastTense is offline
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With water tanker fire trucks there is a problem that they have a high center of gravity; volunteer firefighters lack adequate training and consequently drive them like they drive cars--and the trucks tip over going around curves because they are going too fast.
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Old 04-09-2018, 03:08 PM
Lamoral Lamoral is offline
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Aren't some of them jointed, with a second cab in the back to help steer properly?
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Old 04-09-2018, 04:17 PM
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Here's a cite on the relationship between police officer crashes and officer fatalities:

Quote:
Though car crashes have accounted for nearly 30 percent of officer fatalities over the past decade, police officers in the cities I studied frequently leave their seatbelts off in the hopes of being ready to fight or give chase, even when driving at high speeds
Not only do they get in crashes, but they also get injured at higher rates because they are not buckled up. I would postulate that this might apply to some of the ambulance team as well, who are working in the back with a patient.
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Old 04-09-2018, 05:07 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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we had an air ambulance crash last year killing everyone onboard .
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Old 04-09-2018, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
Exactly so. I'd guess that most "service trips" for an ambulance are either:

a) Home base -> patient location -> medical facility (transporting patient) -> home base

b) Home base -> patient location -> home base

I might even guess that, for an actual ambulance (one that is built for transporting a patient, as opposed to an EMT / paramedic vehicle), the first type of trip is more common than the second.
Many ambulances don't operate out of a single 'home base' - in order to reduce response times, ambulances will be stationed at predetermined locations (often near major roads/freeway access) in their area of responsibility.

For example, a fire or car accident pulls ambulances off their assigned locations to bring patients to hospitals. In order to maintain a low response time, dispatchers may tell ambulances from other parts of the region to move to pre-determined locations near where the fire was, so that a call from the nursing home in an area near the fire will still have a shorter response time.

A typical ambulance day (on a very quiet day) might look like:
Home Base -> Temporary Base 1 -> Pt Location -> Medical Facility -> Temporary Base 2 -> Pt Location -> Temporary Base 3 -> Pt Location -> Medical Facility -> Temporary Base 2 -> Home Base

However, not all ambulance services do this, depending on their geography and funding.
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Old 04-09-2018, 06:01 PM
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Ninja'd on the volunteer firefighters. They scare me to death. Mr.Wrekker had to pull a firetruck out of a ditch one time, they took the curve too fast and plowed right into a high embankment. There was a ambulance wreck in my state not too long ago, the riders and EMTs were okay, but the other car had a fatality.
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Old 04-09-2018, 06:39 PM
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Very often. My wife was in four accidents during her 10 years with FDNY EMS. Three were caused by asshole civilian drivers ignoring lights and sirens, one was her backing into a car (visibility is a problem in their trucks). Driving an ambulance is a risky job. A friend of ours was killed last year loading a patient in the back when a nutjob hopped into the cab, backed over her, and dragged her two city blocks.
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Old 04-09-2018, 07:06 PM
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Jennshark that is terrible. When I last lived in LA, in more crowded area of the city, they would send out police officers with the ambulance. The ambulance would inch along through traffic, lights on, sirens ringing, no one moving out of the way. There would be an announcement blared out that said something like, "when you see lights and hear a siren, you must move out of the way." The police would start handing out tickets. Sometimes it helped, and sometimes it didn't. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. People can be real assholes.
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Old 04-09-2018, 07:09 PM
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Driving an ambulance is a risky job. A friend of ours was killed last year loading a patient in the back when a nutjob hopped into the cab, backed over her, and dragged her two city blocks.
Yeah I have a friend on FB who's an EMT and he posts some harrowing shit sometimes. I'm pretty sure that as mass shootings and terrorism continue to be a problem, "tactical medics" will become more and more of a thing with police departments/ambulance services. There are a lot of trained military medics who could step into that role in civilian life if they have the desire to keep at it.
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Old 04-09-2018, 07:55 PM
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Actually, ambulances will have a lot of trips with no emergency portion at all. Whenever there's a big event with a lot of people, there will be an ambulance (or multiple) dispatched to the site and parked there, just in case something happens and it's needed... but it usually isn't. And the event needn't even be all that big: Around here, there's usually an ambulance at high school football games, for instance.
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Old 04-09-2018, 09:49 PM
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Stand-bys, food runs, occasional other errands (we can respond from wherever we are if we're in the ambulance) are all non-emergency driving.

We do a vehicle check at the beginning of every shift; we must fill it up at tank & frequently do at of a tank because the vehicle is always left running on scene due to the electrical load & a fire standby can be a couple of hours of running whereas we could sometimes turn it off for a scheduled standby (race, airshow, HS football, etc. especially if we were able to plug in.)

Some jurisdictions will respond to certain calls at non-emergency speed, though we don't. A significant portion of transports to the hospital are non-emergency speed (if the patient is stable.)

Therefore running "hot" is only a small fraction of total driving.


In this state you're required to take the appropriate version (EMS, Fire, PD) of EVOC - Emergency Vehicle Operator's Course before being allowed to drive on the roads. On a closed road/parking lot doing things like emergency braking & swerves - lotta fun!


ETA: Around here, a lot of the intersections have Opticoms turning the traffic light red for all but the direction of the emergency vehicle. I've gone 10-15 mins to the hospital & never had to slow for a light once.

Last edited by Spiderman; 04-09-2018 at 09:52 PM.
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Old 04-10-2018, 01:07 AM
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I would say it also has to do with the city. In San Jose emergency vehicles come to a full stop at intersections when they do not have a green light. In Frisco they depend on their lights and sirens. I watch a fire truck coming at me down a narrow street through several intersections never stopping once and it appeared that they were not even slowing down. This was a street with blind corners, stop signs, and signal lights that were red.
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Old 04-10-2018, 01:15 AM
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My city has had at least two serious collisions between emergency vehicles.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 04-10-2018 at 01:19 AM.
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Old 04-10-2018, 04:58 AM
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With water tanker fire trucks there is a problem that they have a high center of gravity; volunteer firefighters lack adequate training and consequently drive them like they drive cars--and the trucks tip over going around curves because they are going too fast.
Older (immediately post WW2 era) fire engines in the UK did not have interior baffles which meant that the water inside could slosh around and they had to go around corners very slowly.
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Old 04-10-2018, 07:30 AM
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My city has had at least two serious collisions between emergency vehicles.
It happens.
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Old 04-10-2018, 08:28 AM
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Just because an emergency response vehicle is traveling with with lights and sirens does not mean other road users won't cause an accident. We had an ambulance end up in an accident while they were running hot carrying a patient to the hospital. Another vehicle ran a stop sign and the ambulance swerved to try to avoid a collision. Unfortunately the ambulance did hit the other vehicle but more damage was done as they hit a building when they swerved.

And, as luck would have it, it was a nearly new ambulance. Sigh.
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Old 04-10-2018, 09:28 AM
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The ambulance would inch along through traffic, lights on, sirens ringing, no one moving out of the way. There would be an announcement blared out that said something like, "when you see lights and hear a siren, you must move out of the way." The police would start handing out tickets. Sometimes it helped, and sometimes it didn't. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. People can be real assholes.
It's like that here as well. I calm myself by picturing karma catching up to them. They get into an accident and are bleeding to death in the gutter. The last thing they hear as they slide into oblivion is a siren in the distance that won't make it there in time because people won't get out of the way.
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Old 04-10-2018, 02:05 PM
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Older (immediately post WW2 era) fire engines in the UK did not have interior baffles which meant that the water inside could slosh around and they had to go around corners very slowly.
Cite? This seems very unlikely. People have been putting anti-slosh baffles in tanks since the early days of steam engines.
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Old 04-10-2018, 02:20 PM
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Many of the major intersections in the greater metropolitan Chicago area have sensors on the traffic signals that can be triggered by approaching emergency vehicles so that, by the time they reach the intersections, the traffic lights are green for them and red for cross traffic. This definitely has helped reduce accidents.
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Old 04-10-2018, 02:44 PM
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Based on several posts above, it seems ambulances cover more non-emergency miles than I suspected; ignorance fought, thanks. This might explain why a smaller percentage of their crashes happen in emergency mode than for fire trucks: emergency mode may be comparably dangerous for both types of vehicle, but ambulances perhaps have a higher percentage of non-emergency miles than fire trucks.
  #26  
Old 04-10-2018, 03:21 PM
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My city has had at least two serious collisions between emergency vehicles.
We were taught if there are multiple emergency vehicles with sirens on that they should be using different tones. That the public is used to pulling over/stopping for A (single) emergency vehicle & then going back about their driving. With different siren tones they'll realize that there is more than one emergency vehicle. Further, if the two vehicles in these crashes each had the same tone & they were synced up, it would be impossible to hear the other one (assuming it was at an intersection). Still, at least one of them should have stopped, or at least slowed & made sure it was clear before proceeding. That operator is at fault & quite possible received a ticket for it (PD doesn't always have as much leeway, especially in an accident, especially if there are injuries & municipal apparatus is damaged.)
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Old 04-10-2018, 05:15 PM
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Yeah I have a friend on FB who's an EMT and he posts some harrowing shit sometimes. I'm pretty sure that as mass shootings and terrorism continue to be a problem, "tactical medics" will become more and more of a thing with police departments/ambulance services. There are a lot of trained military medics who could step into that role in civilian life if they have the desire to keep at it.
Sharkwife's beat was Spanish Harlem in NYC (retired now) and FDNY issued bulletproof vests to EMS. I made her wear one on NYE and 4th of July, but it was too hot and bulky to wear all of the time.

Sad state of affairs.
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Old 05-07-2018, 12:58 PM
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This is now the topic of one of Cecil's columns.

Moving thread from GQ to Comments on Cecil's Columns/Staff Reports.

Link to the column is here: https://www.straightdope.com/columns...nto-accidents/
  #29  
Old 05-08-2018, 02:35 AM
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Aren't some of them jointed, with a second cab in the back to help steer properly?
These are caller tillers and most of them are aerials (with the big ladder):
https://www.google.com/search?client....0.8gcvfgk4Slo
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