Keep LA Moving and the Impact of Delays to Emergency Vehicles

Back in September I mentioned a conference in Los Angeles, USA, focused on “Road Diets” and “Vision Zero” and other negative transport policies under the title “Keep LA Moving”. There is strong opposition to road schemes that increase congestion and remove road space in the USA. You can see some of the videos taken of panel sessions at the conference in October here: but what follows are some of the key points from presentations shown at the event.

Fire truck

One presentation shown was from Les Bunte, former Assistant Fire Chief in Austin, Texas which covered the impact of delays in response times to medical emergencies – specifically to cardiac arrests. The delays to emergency service vehicles are a major concern to those opposed to increases in traffic congestion caused road space removal. He presented this chart:

SCA Survival

In England there is a target ambulance response time to Category 1 emergencies such as heart attacks of an average of 7 minutes which the country consistently fails to meet, and there are of course many responses that take longer than 7 minutes. In London the times are undoubtedly worse although I could not find any recent data on that subject as the London Ambulance Service does not report against the national target. All they report is that for Category A emergencies, 95% of ambulances arrive within 19 minutes. But you can see from the above chart that any response time of more than 10 minutes means you are almost certain to die.

Another presentation shown at the LA Conference was from the Portland Fire Department. According to the National Fire Protection Agency in the USA, in 2016 there were 35,200,000 emergency calls to fire departments around the country. Almost 22 million of these were fire and medical emergencies. Delays can have fatal consequences.

Delay to emergency response also means firefighters arrive at the scenes of emergencies in more dangerous conditions. In 2017, almost 59 thousand firefighters incurred injuries, and 60 firefighters died – most of which occurred at fireground operations. A number of fire fighters have also been injured from hitting the roofs of their cabs, rushing to emergencies when encountering speed humps.  At least two of these firefighters have been placed on permanent disability

The chart below compares the number of vehicle related deaths – pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle passengers (2018 stats) with the average yearly deaths caused by sudden cardiac arrest (SCA – not considering victims of other medical emergencies) plus fires in the USA. SCA and fires are Class A emergencies, requiring the most urgent emergency response times.

The data shows that a person is nearly 10 times more likely to die from fire and cardiac arrest than ALL vehicle-related accidents involving pedestrians, cyclists and passengers of cars. Clearly it is very important to maintain fast response times to medical emergencies.

USA Fatalities

This is quite conclusive evidence of the negative impacts of delays to emergency vehicles caused by road narrowing, speed humps and other traffic calming measures that increase traffic congestion and slow emergency services.

Roger Lawson


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