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Emergency Medical Care for Crash Victims

— July 4, 2018

Emergency Medical Care and GM OnStar Today

Emergency Medical Care and GM OnStar Today

On March 26, 2018 the Detroit News reported:

“General Motors Co.’s OnStar will air its first stand-alone TV advertisement in at least six years with a marketing campaign that brings the connectivity feature back to its safety and security roots.

Airing Thursday during Major League Baseball’s Opening Day and the NCAA basketball tournament’s Final Four over the weekend, OnStar’s new “Horn” spot is the first in its new “Be Safe Out There” campaign”. 1

An informative OnStar ad “Emergency” that described safety features was run on 5/9/2018. It’s estimated that roughly 90,000 car crashes happen in the city of Chicago each year with 15,000 of those involving injuries. OnStar’s Automatic Crash Response technology connects passengers to an OnStar advisor and provides real-time information to first responders in the event of an emergency. 2

In January of 2009, BMW published a similar video describing their safety features based on nearly two decades of research. 3

So, what did GM accomplish in saving its customers’ lives since 2009?

In the four years 2010 and 2014, GM was Number 1 in Occupant Deaths year after year. GM occupant deaths accounted for about 33% of all occupant deaths in each year – nearly 20 occupant deaths on an average day.

As for pedestrian and cyclist deaths GM, again Number 1, accounted for nearly four deaths on an average day in the U.S. Thus, during those years Total GM deaths amounted to nearly 24 vehicle deaths each average day. 4

How did GM do on injuries? Insurance data on the years 2014 – 2016 on GM mid-size four- door vehicles found that on Medical Payments three GM models had “Substantially Worse Than Average” ratings. 5

Imagine if GM put its customers first as Jeff Bezos preaches at Amazon.

What could GM OnStar do if it put the lives of its customers first? I described some needed actions in an article in Vision Zero International, June 2015. Give EMS the information they need to save lives instantly, and automatically, the moment a serious crash occurs. That information that GM gets instantly and automatically includes: crash location, crash severity, probability of the presence of a serious injury, time and distance to the nearest trauma center, and availability of air medical services. GM also has information on recommended cut points on their vehicle so that extrication by rescue teams can be done safely, expeditiously, and effectively. 6

Imagine the inhumanity, immorality, as well as the illegality, and liability of not giving all rescue teams such life saving information instantly and automatically.

GM and rescue teams could use Google and other apps to learn the fastest route to the crash scene and even calculate times, distance and transport options of land vs. air medical transport from the scene, and which would be best for seriously injured patients – again instantly and automatically. Good people worked on providing such an information infrastructure beginning in the 1990s under NHTSA leadership. 7

But, since the year 2000 and the selection of George W. Bush by the Supreme Court, NHTSA became increasingly corporatized. 8, 9

Emergency sign on building; image via Pxhere, CC0.
Emergency sign on building; image via Pxhere, CC0.

NHTSA Today on Improving Prehospital Trauma Care

On April 27, 2018 NHTSA published in the Federal Register a request for comments, not on a Proposed Rule, but on the subject of improving trauma care:

NHTSA, on behalf of the Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services (FICEMS), is seeking comments from all sources (public, private, governmental, academic, professional, public interest groups, and other interested parties) on improving prehospital trauma care. 10

Unfortunately, this is after more than an additional 150,000 Americans have lost their lives since I last addressed NHTSA and FICEMS on the subject in Dec. 2013. I petitioned for adoption of national goals for the timely and optimal treatment of seriously injured crash victims. As I testified and wrote: “Americans continue to wait, die, and suffer disabilities from serious crash injuries – at a rate of about 500 per day.” 11

In 2015, a paper by researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle funded by NHTSA, concluded:

“Conclusion: After 30 minutes had elapsed following an MVC, every one-minute increase in crash-notification time significantly increased mortality. Furthermore, the majority of a patient’s prehospital time occurred between the arrival of EMS providers on-scene and arrival at a hospital. The need for extrication and rural location increased these time periods, as well as the overall prehospital time. An AACN may help decrease mortality following MVC by alerting EMS providers to a collision earlier and by helping providers discern when specialized or heavy equipment will be necessary in order to quickly extricate patients from the collision site and facilitate expeditious transfer to a trauma center”. 12

Based on more than 25 years of work (mostly at NHTSA) to improve emergency medical care for crash victims, I regret to report that each year about 56% of crash deaths in the U.S. die before receiving emergency medical care at a hospital – year after year. 7, 13, 14, 15

And, more Americans suffer and die in Red States than Blue States – year after year. 15

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” 16

National Trauma – Bring in the Department of Defense

Envision the number of Americans killed and injured in all wars since 1776. The totals amount to 1,354,664 deaths and 1,498,240 wounded. 17

The number of vehicle tragedies in America since 1913 amount to about 3,891,900 deaths and nearly 1 Billion injuries. 18

DOD Secretary of Defense Robert Gates upon retiring said that he was proud of “giving them (troops) one-hour medevac or less in Afghanistan… trying to do whatever was necessary to help them accomplish their mission and come home safely.” 19, 20

The National Trauma Institute, addressing all injuries (not just auto injuries), cites current statistics nationally that injury in America is now the #1 Cause of Death (age 1-46) and accounts for 30% of all Life Years Lost before age 75. The number of Life Years Lost due to injury (unintentional injuries plus suicides and homicides) exceeds that due to cancer, or heart disease. The annual cost of trauma is estimated to be $671 Billion – more than that of heart disease and cancer combined. 21

The National Academy of Sciences has made recommendations for DOD and HHS to take leading roles in creating a National Trauma Care System to achieve zero preventable deaths. 22

It’s about time! For too long, too many Americans have been losing their lives, livelihoods, legacies, and suffering needlessly. So many preventable tragedies are occurring because rescue teams are arriving with too little information, too little equipment, too late, too often, for too many Americans – year after year. Enough! We know how to do better!


  1. OnStar refocusing on safety with new ad campaign
  2. OnStar TV Commercial, ‘Emergency’ See also How OnStar prepares to save your life
  3. BMW Assist Extends Automatic Collision Notification to Include Risk of Severe Injury Algorithm.
  4. Crash Deaths With No End In Sight
  5. Insurance losses by make and model
  6. Call for Help
  7. Urgency
  8. Who is Responsible for the Last Decade of Crash Deaths?
  9. Weak Oversight, Deadly Cars
  10. Request for Information: Improving Prehospital Trauma Care
  11. Crash Victims Suffer Deaths & Disabilities Waiting for Pres. Obama
  12. Evaluating the Potential Benefits of Advanced Automatic Crash Notification
  13. Time and Place of Death from Automobile Crashes: Research Endpoint Implications
  14. CIREN pp 43-45
  15. Crash Deaths Under Trump Administration as of June 2018
  16. Proverbs 29:18 King James Version (KJV)
  17. United States military casualties of war
  18. U.S.A. Crash Death Clock
  19. Afghan Troops Lose an Airlift Lifeline — U.S. Crash Victims Lose Lives, Limbs, and Livelihoods Too
  20. Gates: I was ‘Strong Advocate for Surge to End in…
  21. Trauma Statistics & Facts
  22. Trauma Care Recommendations

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