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The Danger of Emergency Responders Being Distracted When They’re Responding

Here’s a terrible twist: Emergency vehicles today have so much sophisticated gear in them that it’s distracting the responders who drive them, leading to accidents.

The New York Times Thursday had a Page One story on the problem that was headlined “Lights, Sirens And A Dash Wired With Dangerous Distractions.”

The problem is that police cars and ambulances today are loaded with technology – from GPS systems to computers – that can distract their drivers and lead to accidents, just like cellphones are blamed for causing crashes.

Since these emergency vehicles are usually traveling at high speeds to get to the ill or injured, any slight distraction can quickly lead to a tragedy.

The Times notes in its story that in 2008, an emergency medical technician looking at a GPS device hit a flatbed truck in West Nyack, N.Y. Half of the ambulance was sheared off and the man’s passenger and partner was paralyzed.

A year earlier, a sheriff’s officer in Illinois was putting an address in his GPS system, and went on to crash into a stopped vehicle. The driver of that car was seriously injured.

One possible answer to the problem is voice-activated systems. The University of New Hampshire is working to come up with hands-free technology, doing the research with a $34 million federal grant, The Times says.

EMT’s are at the critical juncture of the tragedy that impacts our clients. While they must have the best technological devices, what they do is so inherently dangerous, their safety must be the highest priority. It does the injured person no good to get in another crash on the way to treatment.

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