Most drivers do their best to pull over or otherwise get out of the way when they hear and/or see an emergency vehicle on the road. However, these vehicles still become involved in a number of crashes every year, and too many prove to be fatal.
In 2019, 170 people suffered fatal injuries in crashes involving an emergency vehicle. Almost two-thirds of those who died in these crashes (63%) were in another vehicle. Some 21% were pedestrians. That means the large majority of those killed weren’t in the emergency vehicle, either as a driver or passenger. However, people being transported via ambulance have been known to lose their lives in these crashes.
Which type of emergency vehicles are most often in fatal crashes?
Perhaps not surprisingly, two-thirds were in collisions involving police vehicles. Although California law enforcement agencies have become more cautious about when to initiate and continue high-speed pursuits in recent years, they’re still sometimes necessary.
Ambulances and then fire trucks accounted for the remaining fatalities. The rate of fatal crashes per response involving police vehicles and ambulances was about the same in 2019 as it was in 2010. The rate for fire trucks was significantly higher. Police crashes still far outnumbered those of other emergency vehicles throughout the decade, however.
What is a driver’s responsibility when they encounter an emergency vehicle?
So what does all of this mean for those who’ve been involved in a crash with an emergency vehicle? California traffic laws tell drivers to: “Give the right-of-way to any law enforcement vehicle, fire engine, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle using a siren and red lights. Drive to the right edge of the road and stop until the emergency vehicle(s) have passed” (unless you’re already in an intersection).
But what if you did everything you were supposed to do, or perhaps the vehicle didn’t have its lights or sirens on, so you weren’t aware of it until it was too late? If you’ve suffered injuries in a crash caused by an emergency vehicle, you have every right to determine what your legal options are for seeking compensation for medical bills and other expenses and damages.