Q Why do so many firefighters die after suffering a car accident?
You may have already known that automobile crashes are the second leading cause of death for NJ firefighters. But while nearly 500 firefighters are involved in fatal fire truck crashes every year, the number doesn’t seem to be getting any lower—in fact, it’s one of the few groups of victims whose accident risk has remained the same for nearly a decade.
According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), there are a number of reasons why firefighters are likely to be killed on duty as a result of an automobile crash. A recent study analyzed the data from 10 years’ worth of fire truck accidents, and found that most fatal crashes had these factors in common:
- Victim position. Sixty percent of all firefighters who are killed in fire truck accidents were sitting in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.
- Seat belts. Lack of safety belt use increases fatality risk even more, as only 3 out of 29 drivers who were killed in fire truck crashes were wearing a lap and shoulder belt.
- Intersections. Fire truck crashes are more likely to happen near or in intersections, usually as a result of a driver making a left-hand turn in front of the fire truck.
- Rush hour. Risk of a crash increases considerably in the afternoon, as a greater number of people on the roads mean a greater chance of an accident.
- Speeding. A fire truck will often speed to get to its destination more quickly, but cars around the emergency vehicle often attempt risky passing maneuvers or speed to avoid being caught at a traffic light.
How Can I Help a Firefighter in My Family Stay Safe?
Many firefighters do not wear their seat belts on the way to an emergency situation. Please share this article with your firefighter friends and urge them to buckle up—even if they find the belt uncomfortable when they are in full turnout gear. Remember: you can’t save a life if you don’t make it to the scene alive!