State law enforcement in Missouri keeps records at the county level of the incidence and causes of motor vehicle accidents involving emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and police cars. KMIZ 17 News recently reported on one such accident in Columbia involving two emergency responders transporting a patient in serious condition to the hospital via ambulance. The EMS workers received treatment at the hospital for minor injuries.

As disturbing as the report is, this crash was just one of the hundreds of similar accidents involving emergency vehicles that take place in Missouri every year. Along with failure to yield and animals on the roadway, distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents involving emergency vehicles in Missouri.

According to the National Safety Council, it is not necessarily the drivers of emergency vehicles who are becoming distracted. More often, it is other drivers in the vicinity. Earlier this year, the NSC released a survey in which 16% of respondents admitted to distracted behaviors behind the wheel that caused them to either strike an emergency vehicle or have a close call.

Specific behaviors that survey respondents reported include slowing down by the scene of an accident to get a better look or using their phones to take pictures or video of a crash while still driving. The percentage of respondents reporting the former behavior was 80%, while 71% reported the latter. Each involves a driver taking his or her eyes off the road and potentially slowing down while observing the activities of emergency responders. Both behaviors pose significant risks to emergency personnel, as well as other drivers.