Background: Fatality rates from rural vehicular trauma are almost double those found in urban settings. It has been suggested that increased prehospital time is a factor that adversely affects fatality rates in rural vehicular trauma. By linking and analyzing Alabama's statewide prehospital data, emergency medical services (EMS) prehospital time was assessed for rural and urban vehicular crashes.
Methods: An imputational methodology permitted linkage of data from police motor vehicle crash (MVC) and EMS records. MVCs were defined as rural or urban by crash location using the United States Census Bureau criteria. Areas within Alabama that fell outside the Census Bureau definition of urban were defined as rural. Prehospital data were analyzed to determine EMS response time, scene time, and transport time in rural and urban settings.
Results: Over a 2-year period from January 2001 through December 2002, data were collected from EMS Patient Care Reports and police crash reports for the entire state of Alabama. By using an imputational methodology and join specifications, 45,763 police crash reports were linked to EMS Patient Care Reports. Of these, 34,341 (75%) were injured in rural settings and 11,422 (25%) were injured in urban settings. A total of 714 mortalities were identified, of which 611 (1.78%) occurred in rural settings and 103 (.90%) occurred in urban settings (P < .0001). When mortalities occurred, the mean EMS response time in rural settings was 10.67 minutes and 6.50 minutes in urban settings (P < .0001). When mortalities occurred, the mean EMS scene time in rural settings was 18.87 minutes and 10.83 minutes in urban settings (patients who were dead on scene and extrication patients were excluded from both settings) (P < .0001). When mortalities occurred, the mean EMS transport time in rural settings was 12.45 minutes and 7.43 minutes in urban settings (P < .0001). When mortalities occurred, the overall mean prehospital time in rural settings was 42.0 minutes and 24.8 minutes in urban settings (P < .0001). The mean EMS response time for rural MVCs with survivors was 8.54 minutes versus a mean of 10.67 minutes with mortalities (P < .0001). The mean EMS scene time for rural MVCs with survivors was 14.81 minutes versus 18.87 minutes with mortalities (patients who were dead on scene and extrication patients were excluded) (P = .0014).
Conclusions: Based on this statewide analysis of MVCs, increased EMS prehospital time appears to be associated with higher mortality rates in rural settings.