The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Office of Emergency Medical Services released a report on lights and safety.
Click here to access the report.
Primum non nocere – first do no harm. This principle of medical care helps to guide medical decisions by reminding healthcare providers that while attempting to provide treatments to improve a patient’s outcome, there are risks that can cause harm. Providing healthcare requires a constant assessment of the impact of certain interventions on patient outcome while balancing that with the risks associated with the intervention. The primary role of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers and agencies is to deliver healthcare, often for medical emergencies, and weighing the risks and benefits of all aspects of delivering care – including the risks and benefits of the treatment of lights and siren (L&S) use – should be part of this practice of medicine.
There are some situations where the “medical treatment” of L&S use can improve patient outcome by the time that it saves, but there is a risk when L&S lead to EMS vehicle crashes, provider or patient injury, EMS provider hearing loss, or worsened patient condition due to anxiety and stress. It is even possible that excessive use of L&S by an EMS agency causes some patients with legitimate emergencies to choose private vehicle transportation to the hospital rather than calling 911 due to the sirens and attention.