Patients Killed by Speed Humps (Article published in April 2003)
The Chairman of the London Ambulance Service, Sigurd Reinton, recently claimed that speed humps are killing hundreds of Londoners by delaying 999 crews. He said “For every life saved through traffic calming, more are lost because of ambulance delays.”
There are about 8,000 heart attack victims in London every year, and London has a particularly poor survival rate. One reason is no doubt because even a small delay increases the death rate enormously. For example 90% of victims survive if treated within 2 minutes, but it falls to 10% if treatment is delayed for 6 minutes. So for every additional minute of delay caused, up to an extra 800 victims of cardiac arrest could die. This compares with a total of 300 people who die from traffic accidents.
Mr Reinton complained that the increasing number of anti-car measures such as speed humps, road closures, road narrowing and throttle points caused significant delays in responding to emergencies. Ambulances had to go even slower if carrying a critically ill patient.
Note that Kevin Knight, who is responsible for local London Ambulance services, also spoke against speed bumps using the same arguments at the recent council Environment Portolio holders meeting. He said they were now meeting the government target of reaching 75% of life threatening calls within 8 minutes (Editor: which is not good enough to save most heart attack victims - see above), but it was getting more and more difficult to do so and even a few seconds delay could impact the chance of survival for heart attack victims. Traffic calming features caused significant delays - for example 50% of the ambulances from one station would have had to go through the proposed Leesons Hill “throttle” where there would be queuing traffic.
Research in the USA supports these claims. One report from Boulder, Colorado suggests that for every life saved by traffic calming, as many as 85 people may die because emergency vehicles are delayed. It found response times are typically extended by 14% by speed-reduction measures. Another study conducted by the fire department in Austin, Texas showed an increase in the travel time of ambulances when transporting victims of up to 100%.
Note that Kathleen Calongne who lives in Boulder, Colorado has produced a note that gives more details on the opposition to speed humps in the USA and includes detail references to the above mentioned research - please contact B.B.R.A.G. if you would like a copy, which is a summary of a 400 page report on the subject of speed humps.
P.S. The full submission by Sigurd Reinton to the Greater London Assembly Speed Hump Inquiry in early 2004 can be seen at LAS_Report
Speed Humps and Ambulances (Article Published in April 2004)
One of the people who gave evidence to the recent GLA Speed Hump Inquiry was Paramedic Mark Belchamber who works for the London Ambulance Service (LAS). His evidence criticised the problems they cause ambulance staff. In fact he did a study of such problems as a degree thesis which is well worth reading. It can be read on the internet at: http://www.belchamber.org/speedhumps/
The study main consisted of asking 36 paramedics from different parts of the country for their experiences, and their response to humps. For example, 66% would deviate to avoid humps even when on emergency calls, and half of them were willing to add 2.5 minutes to the response time as a result.
88% of paramedics felt that speed humps interfered with CPR or other medical procedures. All respondents considered that a number of patient conditions were affected detrimentally by speed humps, particularly spinal or back injuries, and fractures generally.
In summary, it was clear that ambulance staff take a very dim view of the impact of speed humps on their ability to do their job, and that there are negative implications for patients.
Speed Humps and Ambulances (Article Published in October 2004)
TeLeSCoPe is the glossy newsletter produced by the London Safety Camera Parnership (Editor: I think they spell it that way so you slow down when reading it). Their latest edition contained an interesting interview with Chris Hartley-Sharpe who is the Ambulance Operations Manager for the London Ambulance Service (LAS) based at Waterloo.
He seemed to favour speed cameras as “Road humps cause us problems because they obstruct the passage of ambulances, increasing the time it takes for medical help to reach seriously ill or injured patients, exacerbating the discomfort of patients with spinal injuries, sometimes making it impossible for paramedics to give life-saving treatment to patients when on the move, and damaging our vehicles.”. This is a clear and succinct summary of the views of many ambulance staff. When asked to describe himself in three words, he said “Road hump-sceptic”.