NHTSA and EMS, a lifesaving collaboration
If you were among the more than 2 million people injured in a vehicle crash last year, you likely have a special appreciation for the brave men and women who work in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Every day, in every community, courageous EMS professionals play an essential role in roadway safety by rushing into often dangerous situations in order to provide care and save lives. They are often underappreciated, but they serve an essential role in roadway safety.
That’s why DOT and NHTSA have long been partners and supporters of America's EMS professionals.
As early as the late 1960s, a grant from DOT helped Philadelphia’s Freedom House provide quality EMS service in a low-income, predominantly African American district of Pittsburgh where calls for help had often gone unanswered. Later, in the early 1970s, professional EMS training was “born” at NHTSA. NHTSA even designed the familiar “Star of Life” symbol found on EMS vehicles and uniforms.
EMS and NHTSA are inextricably intertwined. Improvements in EMS and highway safety were both inspired by the 1966 National Academies of Sciences report "Accidental Death and Disability,” which documented the “neglected epidemic” of accidental deaths, including deaths in vehicle crashes. That report influenced early EMS work by NHTSA’s predecessor agency following passage of the 1966 Highway Safety Act.
Today, NHTSA’s Office of EMS continues its tradition of working to improve the provision of emergency medical care, to support EMS leaders with accurate data to help inform their decisions, and to evaluate performance so EMS systems are always improving.
But federal support for EMS doesn’t begin and end at NHTSA and DOT. The Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security--as well as the Federal Communications Commission--all have important roles in helping develop the policies, processes, and technologies that support EMS systems. While we’ve worked together for decades to help improve EMS, the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS (FICEMS) was established in 2005 to formalize that relationship.
Today, I’ll have the honor of representing NHTSA as a member of FICEMS as we meet in Washington and continue building on our essential work of coordinating programs and supporting the lifesaving work of EMS. The committee will also present its first-ever Strategic Plan.
Since NHTSA was established over 40 years ago, annual fatalities on U.S. roads have fallen to record lows.
Looking ahead, we’ll be pressing to get technologies into our cars and trucks that can help prevent crashes altogether, combat drunk and distracted driving, and increase seat belt use to save even more lives. But when crashes do happen, EMS professionals can make the difference between life and death.
When I speak with FICEMS today, I’ll reinforce with them NHTSA’s commitment to supporting their vital work and the honor it is to work with them to save lives each and every day.
David Friedman is Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.