"From a general perspective, I've always been known as an advocate for paramedics, and we really do need to keep them safe," says Overton. "From an administrator's standpoint, there's always this concern regarding response times, and because we're doing real-time behavior modification, are the response times going to be longer because of limitations on high-speed or high-force driving? My response to that is, it's the responsibility of the EMS administrators. We should not be putting pressure on the drivers to respond quicker. We need to do everything we can to ensure their safety responding to the scene, as well as safety of both patient and medic as they respond back to the hospital. As administrators, we need to be aggressive in our attitudes toward safety so devices like the black box are not viewed as something negative, but as something positive. The box is just another tool that helps us create a complete culture of safety in our EMS systems."
For more information on Road Safety, visit www.roadsafety.com.
Optimal Solution for Enhancing Ambulance Safety
In 2003, a prospective study was conducted at the Metro Emergency Medical Service (MEMS) of Little Rock, AR, to determine if emergency vehicle driver behavior can be modified and improved by installing an onboard computer-based monitoring device with real-time auditory feedback manufactured by Road Safety. Data were collected over an 18-month period from 36 vehicles and more than 250 drivers. Implementation was well received by EMS personnel, and more than 1.9 million miles of vehicle operations were recorded. Between April 2003 and August 2003, seat belt violations dropped from 13,500 to 4. There was a 20% cost saving in vehicle maintenance within six months, with 10%-20% less brake and tire wear and reduced oil consumption. There was no increase in response times, although call volume did increase over the study period. There was only one minor vehicle mishap.
Authors of the white paper that followed the 2003 study acknowledge that in the first month, drivers were more aware of the black box technology, which resulted in better performance than prior to installation. By the end of Phase 1, it was assumed they had returned to more normal baseline driving habits and there was a rise in the number of violations. In Phase II, once audible tones were switched on, there was once again a dramatic improvement in safety performance.
Authors Nadine Levick, MD, MPH, and Jon Swanson conclude there has been dramatic and sustained improvement in driver performance in every measured area with the Road Safety onboard computer monitoring and feedback system. Use of the system proved to be highly effective, requiring minimal in-service training time and demonstrating optimal safety outcome in addition to a cost savings in maintenance. The researchers encourage widespread implementation of the monitoring system throughout EMS to optimize safety.