By Bill Tricarico
Senior Risk Management Consultant
McNeil & Company, Inc.
A few years ago I visited with an ambulance company which was having a high frequency of minor motor vehicle accidents. Nothing major….rear ending other vehicles, striking parked vehicles and other fixed objects, but we all know that frequency breeds severity and it would only be a matter of time before one of their ambulances strikes a pedestrian or rear ends another vehicle with enough force to cause bodily injury.
As we waited for everyone involved to get to the meeting, the owner asked if I would like a tour. He told me they had the most “up-to-date” fleet of ambulances in the state. When I asked what made them “up-to-date” he proudly told me that they all had smart phones in the cab along with a computer screen accessible to both the driver and passenger for sending and receiving information. They were also equipped with the most modern GPS, which I noted were placed where they were accessible only to the driver.
I told him we didn’t really need a meeting. Get the distractions out of the cab and the accidents will go away. He was at first angry that I had scoffed at his “up-to-date” fleet, but a year later called to thank me for reducing his accidents to nearly nothing which also reduced his costs including workers compensation premiums, vehicle deductible costs, employee turnover and other areas he had never thought about as well as making the operation more efficient.
According to the AAA Foundation, distracted driving causes about 8,000 accidents every single day! And the CDC reports that more than 15 people are killed and 1,200 injured every day in those accidents. Ambulances and wheel chair vans are not immune from those numbers. You expect your employees to multi-task all the time, but never expect that while they are behind the wheel.
There are three main types of distraction:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road
- Manual- taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive- taking your mind off what you are doing
Visual issues could be looking at a map or for a landmark or address if the driver is not sure where they are going before the trip. Manual could be reaching for the radio or siren while driving and cognitive could be paying more attention to what is going on in the ambulance than driving. Texting while driving actually involves all three types of dis-traction. If problems develop during transports that require the driver’s attention, the vehicle should be pulled over and stopped. An accident as a result of distracted driving will only make matters worse.
Drivers of EMS units should have one goal and one goal only; operating their vehicle safely and efficiently from point A to point B. While driving, there should be no other tasks, no other distractions, nothing is more important.