Further InSight (Blog)

Three Critical Steps Towards Improved EMS Driver Safety

Did you know that ambulances and other emergency response vehicles are 13 times more likely to be involved in an accident compared to other vehicles?

Driver safety and vehicle performance are key pain points for those who manage EMS operations because their crews are constantly responding to emergencies—which can necessitate speeding and other hazardous behaviors. While some risks are inevitable, there are opportunities to improve driver performance using tools such as behavior monitoring, alerts, scorecards, feedback and coaching.

By making driver safety a priority, EMS organizations can significantly improve service to patients and other passengers—and reduce costs related to accidents and vehicle maintenance.

3 Key Steps to Improving Driver Safety

  1. Monitoring Overall Driver Performance—Not Just Exceptions

Monitoring driver behavior is one of the most important components of a culture of safety in the EMS industry. However, many companies still only monitor exceptions or violations, without evaluating each driver’s overall performance. As a result, it is easy to miss warning signs that occur before a driver gets into an accident.

It’s much more important to monitor the overall behavior of your drivers, rather than only examining isolated incidents of unsafe driving. Likewise, you need to be able to understand the context in which violations occur. For example: was an ambulance driver speeding because the crew was rushing to the scene of a medical emergency?

Given the nature of EMS operations, having access to granular data about driver performance is essential.

  1. Addressing Unsafe Behavior With Individualized Coaching

When you have a total solution for driver behavior monitoring, you can institute driver evaluations and personalized coaching. This type of follow up is another critical part of achieving a safety culture in an EMS organization. You need to be able to coach drivers based on their behavior—not just fleet-wide metrics.

There are two requirements for effective coaching: comprehensive monitoring and individual driver identification. It’s impossible to maintain accountability if you can’t be certain who was driving a vehicle at the time of an incident. You also need granular performance data. It isn’t enough to know that a vehicle was speeding or took a turn too fast. You need to know how much the driver was speeding compared to the posted limit, or how hard the turn was taken.

  1. Reinforcing Safety Guidelines With Real-Time Alerts and Feedback

Once you’ve established effective behavior monitoring and started coaching your drivers, you’ve laid the foundation for a culture of safety—but the work isn’t done. Changing human behavior requires ongoing reinforcement. In an EMS environment, this is best achieved by providing real-time feedback to drivers.

For example, imagine that one of your drivers is approaching an intersection too fast and has to stop suddenly. If you follow up a week later and say “you braked too harshly on May fifth at three o’ clock”—the driver probably isn’t even going to remember the incident clearly unless it was a major event (i.e., an accident or “close call”). Hearing this feedback detached from the actual behavior won’t leave much of an impression—or lead to safer decisions in the future.

You should be able to provide an immediate response to the driver, when the incident is fresh. Imagine the same situation—a driver brakes harshly—but this time immediate feedback is sent to the driver through a buzzer system in the vehicle. Alerting them on the spot ensures that the driver associates the feedback with the behavior—and the aversive stimulus of the buzzer will stick in their mind. The next time that driver is approaching a similar situation they will instinctively try to avoid hearing the buzzer by slowing down gradually.

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Using These Three Best Practices to Build a Safety Culture

Once you have these three pillars in place, your organization will be positioned to make significant improvements in driver safety and overall performance. However, there will still be a long road ahead.

In addition to providing immediate feedback to drivers through a buzzer system, management should also be alerted when serious infractions or warning signs occur. If Driver A in Vehicle 419 just took a sharp turn at high speed with no emergency-related explanation, you want a supervisor to be alerted at that precise moment in time, so he can follow up with the driver as soon as possible.

Over the long term, you’ll need some type of business intelligence software to examine the data and glean actionable information about your risks. Tools like individual driver scorecards, fleet-wide reports, and real-time dashboards help to manage that process.

Applying gamification to your safety program is also a good way to engage your drivers on these issues. Creating a friendly competition between drivers, crews, or branches can help keep safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Simple rewards like a free lunch—or even compensation based on performance—will give drivers extra motivation to improve their metrics and make safety a priority throughout the entire organization.

Monitor, Analyze, and Improve EMS Driver Safety With StreetEagle

With the StreetEagle platform from InSight Mobile Data, EMS companies can leverage robust driver behavior monitoring and reporting tools to support a culture of safety.

StreetEagle is sophisticated in its capabilities, yet extremely easy to use. Complex challenges like individual driver identification are accomplished through simple solutions, such as allowing drivers to automatically log in and out of vehicles with a key fob or door monitor.

This all-in-one platform offers a wide range of additional capabilities for EMS organizations, including dynamic dispatch and routing, maintenance management, in-cab Wi-Fi access, and easy integration with existing systems such as CAD, AVL, and billing.

Contact InSight Mobile Data to learn more about how StreetEagle can help your company improve accountability and overall performance in EMS operations.