It is not uncommon to see a fire engine called to the scene of an accident on I-70. However, if you take a closer look, you might discover that you are not witnessing a rescue squad attending the scene of an accident, but standing at the scene of a Missouri fire truck crash.
Lack of Driver Training in the Midwest Causes Fire Engine Crashes
A recent study found that fire engine crashes are especially likely due to inexperienced drivers taking the wheel. Although fire truck drivers should have extensive driver training—including classroom courses, practical exams, provisional licensing, and annual refresher training—only 80 percent of fire departments make these training sessions mandatory. In 14 percent of U.S. fire departments, training is optional—with most of these centered in the Midwest.
Here Are a Few Worrying Facts About Fire Truck Crashes in Missouri:
- Roughly a quarter of Midwest fire departments have optional training programs, the highest of any region.
- Driver training is more likely to be optional in smaller cities where the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) protect fewer than 5,000 persons, in rural areas, or in department locations that rarely undergo investigation.
- Departments in urban areas are more likely to enforce refresher driver training and training courses on new equipment.
- Many firefighters themselves say that there is not enough driver training provided and that training for specific classes of vehicles could greatly improve safety.
- Volunteer firefighters are often not required to undergo the mandatory courses offered to staff members, as well as not receiving department regulations on safely using personal vehicles for emergency calls.
- Fire engine crashes are the second-most common line-of-duty cause of death for firefighters, and these crashes typically occur while responding to or returning from a call.
Understanding the Risks Helps Keep Smaller Cars and Firefighters Safe
In addition to receiving comprehensive equipment training, firefighters should also be aware of the specific risks of their vehicles in order to keep other drivers and themselves safe on the roads, including:
- Rollover crashes – Fire engines may not have their weight distributed evenly, leading to rollover crashes when a driver takes a tight corner at speed.
- Volunteer firefighters – An overwhelming number of the firefighters killed were volunteers, most commonly driving their personal vehicles to accident scenes.
- Traffic laws – Untrained fire engine drivers may assume that they can ignore common traffic rules in an emergency. However, all fire trucks are required to come to a complete stop at intersections at all times, as well as stopping at all unguarded railroad crossings.
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