Text: Ambulance Emergency Runs Can Be Dangerous
Last Edited: Friday, 29 Jun 2007, 10:02 PM CDT

(KTVI - myFOXstl.com) --

An ambulance crashes in Town and Country, injuring a paramedic, and revealing surprising statistics. Wrecks cause more injuries to emergency crews than emergency scenes.

In the world of first responders, speed needs to come second, because safety has to come first.

"Arrive alive," says West County EMS and Fire Chief Dave Frazier, explaining the focus of a program fire truck and ambulance drivers learn during hours of intense training. "We teach there has to be a rapid, safe response."

Wrecks on roadways are the second leading cause of death or serious injury among firefighters, secondary to heart attack and stroke, says Frazier.

Friday an ambulance operated by the private transport company Abbott had its lights and sirens on when it was involved in a wreck at Highways 141 and 40 in Town and Country. A paramedic on board was injured, but not seriously. The investigation into that accident continues. Abbot did not return phone calls inquiring about the status of the patient on board at the time of the accident.

It happens regularly across the city, county, state, and country: ambulances on their sides, fire trucks smashed or toppled over. Sometimes it's because someone panicked.

"The inattentiveness of most drivers is playing a significant factor these days," Frazier explains. "An emergency vehicle comes up behind them and kind of startles them or catches them off guard. So what do they do then? Most tendencies when you're driving are to hit the brakes real quick. And that can do more harm than good."

The law requires drivers to yield to emergency vehicles, pulling to the right.

Firefighters and paramedics behind the wheels of their vehicles do bear the responsibility of making sure their lights and sirens are on when they need to be. They undergo mandatory training every year, and not every firefighter or paramedic is certified to drive, Frazier says.