Vehicle safety technology helps South Africa’s paramedics save lives

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The Road Traffic Management Corporation estimates that road accidents cost South Africa approximately R307 billion every year. With this in mind, it is tempting to bury your head in the sand over the carnage and death that South Africa’s roads produce. For those on the front line such as South Africa’s paramedics, this is not an option. Each day their job is to save lives and the more efficiently and speedily they operate, the more lives they save. Cutting edge vehicle safety technology enables these critical efficiencies, allowing first responders to safely reach accident victims and deliver patients safely to further care.

According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, in 2011 there were 27.58 fatalities for every 100 000 South Africans, which was among the highest rates worldwide. Despite this, the rate has actually declined from 36.7 in 1990. Drawing distinct links to the cause of this drop is difficult and the structure of the costs associated complex, but what is clear is that increased efficiencies on the ground are making a difference.

Improved efficiencies are driven by pinpoint data accuracy and intuitive triangulation. For example, every one of Netcare 911’s almost 300 emergency vehicles responding to the approximately 700 000 national calls received per annum rely on the most accurate identification of incident addresses and GPS co-ordinates. Dispatch operators are fed data on the geolocation of the emergency vehicles and estimated times of arrival for the patient requiring emergency assistance.

Personal navigation devices (PNDs) installed in all emergency vehicles then route these vehicles optimally to the scene by displaying traffic patterns and shortest route navigation.

This particular system is the only fully integrated dispatch platform of it’s kind for emergency medical services in South Africa and was designed around the unique business requirements of this highly specialised sector.

Craig Grindell, Netcare 911’s Chief Operating Officer, says, “The dispatch system enables the closest vehicle to be dispatched to emergency incidents with the touch of a button, allowing patients to be attended to quicker. The integration of Tracker’s technology has lead to a significant drop in our response times.”

In addition, push to talk (PTT) devices facilitate real time in-vehicle communication. The system hardware has an interactive display and enhances reporting and accident notifications via 3-way G3 impact sensor methodology. The navigation device interacts with the tracking software interface and dispatched calls can be sent to the device.

“With the newly integrated system, we have had a much higher ‘up’ time on our units, and have increased operational efficiencies. In fact, we have seen a double-digit percentage reduction in the time from when an emergency call is taken until an appropriate emergency care practitioner arrives on the scene. No other product can do what it does - we would simply not be able to operate as efficiently without it,“ claims Grindell.

According to the company, the system has also proven to beneficially influence driver behaviour. The web-based solution proactively assists drivers by monitoring individual driving performances in real-time, effectively identifying areas of improvement.

Michael van Wyngaardt, Executive for Tracker Business, says, “We are extremely proud to have played a key part in improving the safety of road users and Netcare 911 operatives, as well as contributing to better fleet management and resource allocation. The fact that Netcare 911 has managed to reduce, or at least control, the per capita cost of healthcare by utilising our technology, is a proud moment for Tracker Business. ”

The technology is useful for locating vehicles when the Netcare 911 crew is in trouble. According to Grindell, there have been three instances in the past, and in all three Tracker recovered them within hours of being stolen.

The operational safety benefits for paramedics are evident. Now, with fresh road fatality figures due to be released, how this impacts longer-term road fatalities in South Africa is all that remains to be measured.

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