2022 SafeTREC Traffic Safety Fact Sheet: Emergency Medical Services

There are many contributing factors in motor vehicle crashes. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) play a critical role post-crash to reduce fatalities and serious injuries. Recent studies show that an effective emergency trauma care system can improve survival from serious injuries by as much as 25 percent and county-level coordinated systems of trauma care can reduce crash fatalities rates as much as 50 percent. 

The United States Department of Transportation uses the Safe System Approach to bring traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero. The Safe System Approach recognizes human mistakes and vulnerabilities, and designs a system with many redundancies in place to protect everyone. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) names “Post-Crash Care” as a key element of a Safe System. Specifically, post-crash care refers to emergency first response and transport to medical facilities, as well as forensic analysis of the crash site and traffic incident management. 

The Haddon Matrix applies basic principles of public health to motor vehicle-related injuries (see Figure 1). The matrix looks at the factors in the pre-crash, crash, and post-crash phases to see how the driver, vehicle, and environment affect the outcome. Specifically, it identifies the factors that impact the prevention, severity, and survivability of crashes. For EMS, some factors are response time, proximity to an appropriate trauma center, and access to first responders with the appropriate equipment and training.

The national 911 system was implemented over 50 years ago to provide efficient public access to emergency assistance. While effective, the 911 system must also evolve with technological improvements, specifically upgrading from an analog to a digital system. Next Generation 911 (NG911) improves success and reliability of the 911 system by allowing users to to securely send text messages, video, and photos to 911, and in turn allow 911 dispatchers to transmit this information along with location information to first responders. NG911 will allow first responders to more accurately locate crash victims to assess their injuries, thereby improving patient outcomes.

Garrett Fortin
Jill F. Cooper
Publication date: 
September 12, 2022
Publication type: 
Fact Sheet