Ambulance drivers often travel under stressful conditions at high speed while using vehicles with poor high-speed maneuverability. The occupant safety of ambulance vehicles has not yet been addressed by the automotive safety paradigm; particularly for the rear patient compartment. This study had two objectives: (1) to assess by survey the French Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to determine the layout of the vehicle most often used and the EMS personnel's behavior during transport; and (2) to conduct a crash test to analyze the injuries which may affect EMS personnel and patients in the rear patient compartment.
Firstly, a survey was distributed to the 50 largest metropolitan French EMS programs. Secondly, a crash test was performed with a Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) in conditions closest to reality.
Forty-nine of the 50 biggest metropolitan French EMS programs responded to the survey. This represents 108 French MICUs. During the last three years, 12 of 49 EMS programs (24%) identified at least one accident with an MICU, and six of these 12 (50%) suffered at least one death in those accidents. A crash test using a typical French EMS MICU showed that after impact of a collision, the ambulance was moved more than five meters with major consequences for all passengers. A study-approved human cadaver placed in the position of a potential patient was partially thrown from the stretcher with a head impact. The accelerometric reaction of the anthropomorphic manikin head was measured at 48G.
The crash test demonstrated a lack of safety for EMS personnel and patients in the rear compartment. It would be preferable if each piece of medical equipment were provided with a quick release system resistant to three-dimensional 10G forces. The kinetic changes undergone by the “patient” substitute on the stretcher would probably have an effect of causing injury pathology. This study highlights the need for more research and development in this area.
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