Background: Road traffic injuries (RTIs) are a major public health problem, requiring concerted efforts both for their prevention and a reduction of their consequences. Timely arrival of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) at the crash scene followed by speedy victim transportation by trained personnel may reduce the RTIs' consequences. The first 60 minutes after injury occurrence--referred to as the "golden hour"--are vital for the saving of lives. The present study was designed to estimate the average of various time intervals occurring during the pre-hospital care process and to examine the differences between these time intervals as regards RTIs on urban and interurban roads.
Method: A retrospective cross-sectional study was designed and various time intervals in relation to pre-hospital care of RTIs identified in the ambulance dispatch centre in Urmia, Iran from 20 March 2005 to 20 March 2007. All cases which resulted in ambulance dispatches were reviewed and those that had complete data on time intervals were analyzed.
Results: In total, the cases of 2027 RTI victims were analysed. Of these, 61.5% of the subjects were injured in city areas. The mean response time for city locations was 5.0 minutes, compared with 10.6 minutes for interurban road locations. The mean on-scene time on the interurban roads was longer than on city roads (9.2 vs. 6.1 minutes, p < 0.001). Mean transport times from the scene to the hospital were also significantly longer for interurban incidents (17.1 vs. 6.3 minutes, p < 0.001). The mean of total pre-hospital time was 37.2 (+/-17.2) minutes with a median of 32.0. Overall, 72.5% of the response interval time was less than eight minutes.
Conclusion: The response, transport and total time intervals among EMS responding to RTI incidents were longer for interurban roads, compared to the city areas. More research should take place on needs-to and access-for EMS on city and interurban roads. The notification interval seems to be a hidden part of the post-crash events and indirectly affects the "golden hour" for victim management and it needs to be measured through the establishment of the surveillance systems.