We frequently think that the most dangerous part of being a police officer or firefighter are the actions they perform outside of the car, apprehending a criminal or battling through a burning building to save a life. Great amounts of time and training are spent on simulating emergency situations, weapons training and practicing with their gear. But we can’t overlook the dangers inherent in being an officer or firefighter while behind the wheel.
Police officers in pursuit must drive at high speeds in a wide variety of potentially dangerous conditions. Fire trucks are heavy, large vehicles barreling down busy roads as they rush to get to an emergency, sometimes facing drivers who don’t provide the right-of-way or encountering debris blocking their way. It’s imperative that emergency personnel understand how to drive their vehicles as safely as possible in all kinds of conditions.
According to the CDC, in the last 10 years, on average, an officer per week has been killed on our nation’s roads. From 2011 to 2020, there were 286 officer line-of-duty deaths due to vehicle crashes (21% of the total).
Accidents involving fire trucks have also been on the rise for the past several years, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters. Firetruck crashes, occurring at a rate of approximately 30,000 crashes per year, have potentially dire consequences for the vehicle occupants and for the community if the firetruck was traveling to provide emergency services.
Emergency Vehicle Driver Training is Key in Crash Prevention
Being on the road while working in emergency response is a hazardous business, but the dangers can be mitigated through proper training and safety protocols. Driver training should be a critical component to any police or fire department’s training program.
Ways your personnel will benefit from specialized emergency response driving courses:
They’ll understand the laws that apply to emergency vehicles.
Every state has specific driving laws that apply to emergency response vehicles, and through a specialized driver training program, officers and firefighters will understand all the ins and outs of these laws and regulations as well as being drilled in everyday precautions that are often forgotten or unenforced when in a high-stakes situation. (For instance, a study found that a dangerously large number of firefighters don’t wear their seatbelts, leading to unnecessary fatalities.)
They’ll learn how to properly navigate with “due regard.”
When an emergency occurs, professionals are trained to act as quickly as possible, and be so thoroughly conditioned to the correct procedures that they can do them without having to stop and think about them. The ability to react in a split second is key.
Officers and firefighters need to be trained to operate a motor vehicle such that it becomes second nature and reactions to obstacles or hazards are nearly instantaneous. Then in a real-life situation, when the adrenaline is pumping, the driver can react automatically in the safest way possible so that they are always driving with “due regard” which is defined as “driving in a manner to avoid any predictable collision.”
They’ll learn to avoid the most common errors that lead to crashes.
Some of the most common errors made by emergency response personnel include:
- A loss of control due to improper use of the vehicle’s steering, braking, and other controls;
- Exceeding the vehicle’s tire traction, leading to loss of control;
- Lack of awareness of their surroundings;
- Distracted driving;
- Driving too fast.
These are the types of issues that drivers will train to become more aware of and they will learn techniques for maintaining control of their vehicle in all situations.
They’ll be thoroughly familiarized with their vehicle.
Every police car or fire truck is full of various controls, and the drivers need to not only understand how the mechanics and technology operates, but also be comfortable with the act of driving. Additionally, learning how to drive in emergency mode when the lights and sirens are activated is key to being a safe driver.
They’ll get practical, hands-on training.
Not only does a comprehensive firefighter driver training program involve extensive classroom time, but attendees also get plenty of experience actually learning how to drive the vehicle correctly. Hands-on training helps them feel more comfortable in their skills when it’s time to respond to a real emergency.
Remember, you can’t take care of an emergency if you never get there!
DriveTeam’s mission is to raise firefighters’ and officers’ skills and safety levels through classroom and hands-on driving for real world experience. Our Emergency Response Operations Courses (E.R.O.C) are designed to train emergency response professionals in practical, hands-on driving. Contact us today for more information.