Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 June 2012
To analyze the characteristics of fatal ambulance crashes to assist emergency medical services (EMS) directors in objectively developing their EMS system's policy governing ambulance operations.
No difference exists between the characteristics of fatal ambulance crashes during emergency and nonemergency use.
Retrospective, cross-sectional, comparative analysis of ambulance crashes resulting in fatalities reported to the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) from 1987 to 1990.
Twenty variables, representing characteristics of fatal ambulance crashes, were selected from the National Highway Traffic Administration FARS Codebook and were evaluated using tests of significance for categorical data grouped by emergency use and nonemergency use. Crash variable categories examined included demographics, accident configuration, accident severity, vehicle description, and ambulance operator action.
During the four-year study period, 109 fatal ambulance crashes occurred producing 126 deaths. Four states, New York, Michigan, California, and North Carolina, accounted for 37.5% of all fatal crashes. Seventy-five fatal crashes (69%) occurred during emergency use (EU) and 34 fatal crashes (31%) occurred during nonemergency use (NEU). The total number of fatal crashes varied in a downward trend (1987:32; 1988:24; 1989:28; 1990:25). The number of fatal EU crashes also varied in a downward trend (1987:28; 1988:16; 1989:19; 1990:12), while the number of fatal NEU crashes increased each year [1987:4; 1988:8; 1989:9; 1990:13](p = .016). Most EU fatal crashes occurred between 1200 h and 1800 h (p = .009). Most NEU fatal crashes occurred during times when light conditions were poor (p = .003). When a violation was charged to the ambulance driver (17 cited), the vehicle was more likely to be in EU (p = .056). No statistically significant differences between EU and NEU were identified by: 1) day of week; 2) season; 3) atmospheric conditions; 4) roadway surface type; 5) roadway surface condition; 6) speed limit; 7) roadway alignment; 8) relationship to junction; 9) manner of collision; 10) year manufactured; 11) vehicle role; 12) vehicle maneuver; 13) manner leaving scene; 14) extent of deformation; 15) violations charged; or 16) number of persons killed in accident.
Few characteristics differentiate between fatal ambulance crashes during EU and NEU. The difference between EU and NEU were statistically significant in only three out of the 20 variables examined: 1) year occurred; 2) time of day; and 3) light condition. These data provide few objective measures that may be used to develop ambulance operation policies to decrease fatal ambulance crashes.
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