Emergency vehicles most often travel at high speeds when rushing to the scene of an accident. The safety of New Yorkers depends on the quick response time of these brave first responders. But no one benefits if an emergency vehicle causes additional crashes along the way.
Car accidents involving emergency vehicles racing to a crisis happen more often than you think. National databases report thousands of accidents involving emergency vehicles every year, hundreds resulting in at least one fatality.
High speeds required of emergency vehicles increase the likeliness of causing fatal injuries. First responders are some of the most honorable workers in the country, but they still have an obligation to protect others on the road. Residents of New York City and Long Island must be aware of what causes emergency vehicle crashes to crash and how they can avoid becoming a victim.
Police Car Accidents
Police car accidents result in the highest rate of fatalities among emergency vehicles. From 1996 to 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported an average of 355 people were killed in pursuit-related crashes per year. Speed and uncontrollable police chases are the two most common contributing factors:
Police officers are one of the first to arrive at the scene of an accident for a reason. Their smaller vehicles allow them to swiftly zip through traffic easier than ambulances or fire trucks.
However, speeding also makes police cars incredibly hard to see on congested roads, and even harder to move out of the way for. According to the AAA, speeding impairs a driver’s ability to control their vehicle, react timely to surroundings, and stop safely. It even reduces the effectiveness of the vehicle-occupant protection features.
Police officers are the only first responders who actively purse drivers violating the law. These chases most often involve dangerously high speeds and can occur on residential roads, city streets, or highways at any time of day. This undertaking ranks police officers as one of the most dangerous occupations in the nation, and not only for the officers themselves.
Motorists who are avoiding police are not thinking clearly about the safety of others. They make risky maneuvers, putting surrounding drivers and passengers at risk of serious and fatal injuries.
Following these reckless drivers at high speeds can also mean that police officers are risking the safety of others. Not only do they have to avoid the unpredictable behavior of the fleeing driver, but motorists must also anticipant the maneuvers of following police officers as they swerve out of the way.
Firefighters have the highest frequency of car accidents of any other first responder. In 2017, the National Fire Protection Association reported an estimated 15,430 collisions involving fire department emergency vehicles. These accidents occurred both while responding and returning from emergencies.
The massive size and weight of a firetruck can have significant repercussions in the case of an accident. Rollovers accounted for 66 percent of fatal firetruck accidents. These types of accidents can easily lead to debilitating injuries when crushing a passenger car and the occupants inside.
Firetrucks are not easy to maneuver at high speeds. When responding to an emergency, it can take nearly double the time for a firetruck to stop safely than a passenger car. If a fire truck is speeding, stopping, switching lanes, or swerving can prove to be fatal for the occupants of the vehicles around them.
In a 20-year study of ambulance accidents from 1992 to 2011, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.) reported an average of 4,500 crashes annually. More than 34 percent of these accidents resulted in injuries, some with catastrophic results.
An additional 33 people die from ambulance accidents every year. Of these, 63 percent were occupants of other vehicles.
Like most emergency vehicles crashes, ambulance accidents most often occur in the purist of an emergency. At least 60 percent of accidents occurred while ambulances were on their way to help. High speeds combined with the heavy, bulky build of ambulances make them particularly dangerous on the road, especially in the case of a rollover accident or sideswipe.
Passenger vehicles can experience significant difficulty moving out of the way in time for oncoming ambulances depending on the road conditions. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island are all known for congested, narrow streets. Ambulances citywide can put motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians at serious risk if impeding on bike lanes or sidewalks to make it through.
How To Avoid An Emergency Vehicle Accident
First responders are not out to harm the public, but accidents happen. To help reduce your risk of getting into an accident, New Yorkers can follow these safety guidelines for driving safely around emergency vehicles.
- Stay alert. You can only make an educated decision on how to react safely to an emergency vehicle if you know they are coming. Stay alert to the cars and flow of traffic around you at all times.
- Reduce the noise. Music and loud passengers can drown out critical sirens needed to alert you that an emergency vehicle is approaching.
- Make a pullover plan. Never blindly pull over when an emergency vehicle is behind you. Determine the best course of action by using your mirrors and watching surrounding traffic to find the best place to move over.
- Slow down. Emergency vehicles will be traveling fast, but you don’t have to. Avoid speeding to maintain better control over your car and reaction times.
- Don’t follow to close. Leaving minimal space between your vehicle and the car ahead of you will decrease to room available for moving out of the way. Avoid tailgating whenever possible.
New York City and Long Island Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys
First responders have a duty to protect civilians, including the ones on the road to an emergency. Responding to a crisis is no excuse to put surrounding New York residents in danger. If you or a loved one has been injured in a traffic accident caused by an emergency vehicle, our winning team is here to stand up your rights.
The attorneys of Siler & Ingber are committed to working with our clients to help them get the compensation they deserve. With a 98% success rate, we have the experience and the know-how to help our clients achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 1-877-LAW-4343, or schedule an appointment online anytime. We never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.
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