Emergency vehicles exist to help save lives by responding to accidents or other disasters. In times of crisis, an ambulance or fire truck can be a saving grace. However, the rush to get to the scene of an accident can result in unsafe driving at high speeds, leading to collisions with other vehicles. Earlier this month, an ambulance crashed into a building in Orange County, injuring two people. Accidents like this occur more commonly than most people would like to believe: national traffic fatality rates for emergency vehicles are up to 4.8 times the national average.
Fire Truck Accidents
Fire truck accidents also happen with surprising frequency at approximately 30,000 crashes per year. The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine reported that motor vehicle crashes the second leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters, with 20-25 percent of annual fatalities coming from crashes. Firefighters are not the only ones injured in these crashes: the report states that 90 percent of fire truck occupants are not injured in crashes, but 75 percent of fatal crashes involving fire trucks lead to a fatality in the other vehicle. The most harmful event for all crashes was a collision with another vehicle. Considering the size and weight of fire trucks combined with the high speed necessary to get to emergencies as fast as possible, it is not surprising that in collisions with fire trucks, passengers in other vehicles are the ones more likely to be injured or killed.
In 2014, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiled a report on ambulance crashes in the United States, finding that there were an estimated average of 4,500 auto accidents involving an ambulance per year. 65 percent of those crashes resulted in property damage, 34 percent resulted in injuries, and less than one percent resulted in fatalities. Per year, there was an average of 29 fatal ambulance crashes and 33 fatalities from accidents involving an ambulance. There was an estimated mean of 1,500 crashes per year that resulted in 2,600 people injured. 63 percent of the time, the fatally injured person was an occupant in the other vehicle rather than the ambulance, and 54 percent of crashes injured an occupant of the other vehicle. You might think that most crashes occur while ambulances are in emergency use (i.e. while responding to the scene of an accident), but this is not always the case. 58 percent of fatal crashes and 59 percent of all annual injury crashes occurred while the vehicle was in emergency use, but that means that 42 percent of fatal crashes and 34 percent of injury crashes occurred while the vehicle was not in emergency use.
Police Car Crashes
The NHTSA also investigated rates of fatalities in law enforcement vehicle crashes and found that motor vehicle accidents have become the major cause of fatalities in law enforcement officer deaths. Once again, however, police officers are not the only ones in danger. Over 5,000 vehicle passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and thousands more injured. Many police chases involve speeds up to 100 miles per hour, erratic driving, and running red lights, creating many opportunities to collide with another vehicle. The Justice Department has acknowledged the unnecessary risk posed in high-speed pursuits, and has directed officers to avoid chases that would endanger pedestrians, other drivers, or themselves.
If you have been in an accident with an emergency vehicle, you still have rights. Call the Sargent Law Office for a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys.