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Why First Responders Need an Emergency Vehicle Operations Course

Being a first responder is a dangerous job, though most people don’t realize some of those dangers come from being on the road. Emergency responders getting injured due to vehicle accidents is more common than expected.

That’s why emergency vehicle operations courses are so crucial for responders’ training. 

Emergency Responder Traffic Incidents

Emergency responders often deal with additional dangers when responding to emergencies. In 2020, 39 police officers died due to vehicle accidents

Firefighters have also died due to traffic incidents. It’s been recorded that from 2004 to 2013, “179 firefighters died as a result of crashes”. 

There’s no specific information on non-lethal injuries emergency responders suffered due to traffic accidents, but it’s safe to assume it's significant given the number of fatalities. 

4 Categories of Emergency Vehicle Crashes

There are four categories of emergency vehicle crashes. These categories include factors related to drivers, tasks, vehicles, and environment: 

1. Drivers

Every driver is unique, making different decisions before a crash. Drivers also behave differently based on their level of experience. Some drivers with a lot of experience can become overconfident and take more risks. Less experienced drivers may struggle with the multiple skills required to drive an emergency vehicle. 

2. Tasks

An emergency driver’s responsibilities can be so much more than just driving. Drivers may have secondary tasks like communication, directing, and listening to directions. A driver does all this under time-induced pressure while suffering from fatigue during a long shift. Being tired can slow reaction time and the brain’s information processing. 

Other task-related factors include:

  • Emotional stress
  • Safety equipment failure
  • Personal protective equipment getting in the way

3. Vehicles

Learning how to handle an emergency vehicle requires special education. These vehicles are bigger and heavier and don’t have the same maneuverability as commercial vehicles. Without prior knowledge, getting behind the wheel of an emergency vehicle can be dangerous. 

Specific issues that can appear while driving an emergency vehicle include:

  • In-vehicle equipment failure
  • Unrecognized warning signals
  • Being seen in time for drivers to move out of the way

4. Environment

Environmental factors are more than just weather conditions and may include:

  • Lighting conditions
  • Other drivers’ behaviors in intersections
  • Traffic conditions
  • Pedestrian behaviors

How Outsider Drivers Can Be a Major Problem

Outsider drivers are one of the most dangerous and common factors of emergency vehicle crashes. People love to watch the handling of an emergency. Around 71% of drivers take photos or videos of emergency vehicles on the roadside, with 60% posting about them to social media, and 66% emailing—while still driving. These distracted drivers can clog roads, cause traffic jams and accidents, and distract emergency responders. 

How a Driving Training Course Can Help Emergency Responders

You can help your emergency team safely handle these situations through an emergency vehicle operations course. With L3Harris simulators, you can program different times of day, types of weather, and road conditions to help prepare your team without putting a vehicle on the road. You can also collect data from your drivers that show common mistakes and bad habits that need correcting.

With a driving simulator you can:

  • Reduce accidents
  • Save money by not using gas for training
  • Preserve equipment and vehicles
  • Use vehicles for actual emergencies
  • Reduce training time
  • Collect data for feedback


Our PatrolSim™ police car simulator helps officers make split-second critical decisions in various situations. Wrong decisions will have no real consequences during training. Instead, it’s a learning opportunity. You can teach drivers why the decision was wrong and have them try again.

PatrolSim™ simulates a police cruiser’s physical and functional characteristics. It also adjusts to size, weight, turning radius, tire, and suspension characteristics.


FireSim™, our medical and fire truck driving simulator, lets drivers choose between various types of fire engines and first responder or EMT vehicles. There’s also an optional interchangeable driving station for the E350 ambulance. Weaving between commercial vehicles, taking tight turns, and avoiding pedestrians can all be performed safely within the simulation. 

Both you and your responders can look at different scenarios to learn new techniques, provide feedback to those who make mistakes, and have drivers feel more confident behind the wheel. 

Have First Responders Stay Safe on the Road with L3Harris

Give first responder trainees and experienced drivers alike a chance to learn in a safe and controlled environment. The ability to practice different situations and weather conditions can potentially save lives. 

Contact us today to learn more about L3Harris driving simulators. 

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