Relative risk of injury and death in ambulances and other emergency vehicles

Accid Anal Prev. 2003 Nov;35(6):941-8. doi: 10.1016/s0001-4575(02)00102-1.


This study addresses of the impacts of emergency vehicle (ambulances, police cars and fire trucks) occupant seating position, restraint use and vehicle response status on injuries and fatalities. Multi-way frequency and ordinal logistic regression analyses were performed on two large national databases, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the General Estimates System (GES). One model estimated the relative risk ratios for different levels of injury severity to occupants traveling in ambulances. Restrained ambulance occupants involved in a crash were significantly less likely to be killed or seriously injured than unrestrained occupants. Ambulance rear occupants were significantly more likely to be killed than front-seat occupants. Ambulance occupants traveling non-emergency were more likely than occupants traveling emergency to be killed or severely injured. Unrestrained ambulance occupants, occupants riding in the patient compartment and especially unrestrained occupants riding in the patient compartment were at substantially increased risk of injury and death when involved in a crash. A second model incorporated police cars and fire trucks. In the combined ambulance-fire truck-police car model, the likelihood of an occupant fatality for those involved in a crash was higher for routine responses. Relative to police cars and fire trucks, ambulances experienced the highest percentage of fatal crashes where occupants are killed and the highest percentage of crashes where occupants are injured. Lack of restraint use and/or responding with 'lights and siren' characterized the vast majority of fatalities among fire truck occupants. A third model incorporated non-special use van and passenger car occupants, which otherwise replicated the second model. Our findings suggest that ambulance crewmembers riding in the back and firefighters in any seating position, should be restrained whenever feasible. Family members accompanying ambulance patients should ride in the front-seat of the ambulance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ambulances* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Motor Vehicles* / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Assessment