Bottom Line: Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury in the United States. Emergency medical service (EMS) response time is a factor with the potential to influence survival. This study examined EMS response times to motor vehicle crashes in nearly 2,300 U.S. counties from 2013 to 2015. Longer EMS response times in counties were associated with higher rates of motor vehicle crash mortality, after accounting for other important regional differences in EMS time intervals, access to trauma resources, traffic safety laws and how rural a county is. A significant proportion of fatalities (almost 10 percent in rural/wilderness areas and 14 percent in urban/suburban areas) were associated with prolonged county response times as defined by the median time (10 minutes or greater in rural/wilderness areas and 7 minutes or greater in urban/suburban areas). The authors interpret their findings to suggest that regional differences in EMS response time capabilities should be evaluated in efforts to improve trauma systems to reduce motor vehicle crash deaths. An important limitation of the study was the inability to capture regional differences in crash characteristics, which could have influenced the outcomes.
Authors: James P. Byrne, Ph.D., M.D., Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, Toronto, and coauthors
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