EMS Tips

EMS Tips – Distracted Driving Carrot or Stick – Zero Commercial Aviation Fatalities

1. Carrot, stick or both to reduce distracted driving

Christina Dempsey, a Virginia firefighter-paramedic, is pushing for tougher distracted driving laws in her state.

“I really want to see this law go through. It may help prevent other families from going through what my family has and continues to go through.”

On Aug. 27, 2013, a truck driver who took his eyes off the road to check directions slammed into the back of a car in Millersville, Md. The crash killed three people Dempsey loved: her sister, Bethany Dempsey; her sister’s 14-year-old daughter, Lauren White; and the daughter of her sister’s fiancé, 8-year-old Abigail Cullen.

Legislation and penalty is a necessary approach to ending the scourge of distracted driving. Also needed is more education to drives, incentives for drivers to change their behavior and technological fixes that prevent smartphone use in a moving vehicle. The recent Do Not Disturb IOS feature to block notifications and phone use while the vehicle is moving requires users to first opt-in to the feature and then allows them to override the feature.

2. Zero commercial aviation fatalities in 2017

2017 was the safest year for commercial air travel around the world. “Airlines recorded zero accident deaths in commercial passenger jets” in 2017.

Aviation deaths have been steadily falling for more than 10 years.

In safety and risk management talks I am fond of asking if it’s possible for EMS to have zero fatalities in the next month, quarter or year from ambulance collisions. Most audiences believe it’s an impossible goal.

But airlines fly millions and millions of miles every year. How do they do it? Probably a combination of:

  • Top to bottom organization commitment to safety.
  • High-entry level training for pilots.
  • Continually training and monitoring of pilots, including simulation.
  • Strict work rules about shift length, fatigue and sobriety.
  • Additional policies and rules about plane maintenance and inspection.
  • Use of checklists, warning systems and alarms.
  • There is always a spotter when the plane is parked.
  • Speed limits are followed.

Way too many police officers, paramedics and firefighters are injured and killed in vehicle collisions.

Jan 3, 2018: Ambulance transporting officer involved in head-on crash

Jan 3, 2018: 2 firefighters hurt after being run over by fire truck


By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.