It’s the damage, stupid

Frequently at wrecks, I come across crews who place way too much emphasis on the answer to the question, “How fast were you going?”

First of all, most drivers have great incentive to lie about their speed. The liars aside, many are simply unaware of how fast they really were traveling. Besides, in the majority of cases, drivers slam on their brakes, or spin out, or skid down the road on their roofs, and because they’re much more likely to be looking at what they’re about to hit and not the speedometer, they’re not going to be able to tell you with any accuracy what their actual reduced speed was at the moment of impact, if there even is an impact, which is really the only speed that matters.

Normally, I wouldn’t really care much about this stuff, but when other personnel interrupt me to ask patients, “How fast were you going?” as if they’re on to something earth-shattering, it really pisses me off.

“Why, how stupid of me. Good thing you interrupted me to ask that question. He’s a fucking child. Now go the fuck away.”

Instead, I prefer opening my fucking eyes and looking at damage, and I prefer categorizing it into minor, moderate and severe, bearing in mind that modern cars are designed to crumple and collapse around the more rigid passenger space to absorb the energy and protect the occupants, making the cars look a lot worse than the wreck really is.

Just like the degree of damage, I prefer to categorize the likely speed at the moment of impact, based on the visible damage, into low, moderate and high. Anything more, it is just handwaving. That is combined with occupant position(s), subjective complaint(s) and experience to form decisions on treatment and transport. If you’re not Sir Isaac Newton or a classical mechanics professor, it’s probably best to avoid nailing down speed to the nearest mph and writing it on your PCR.

Hey, but you do what you want. I’m just another moron driving an ambulance.

2 thoughts on “It’s the damage, stupid”

  1. “Hey, but you do what you want. I’m just another moron driving an ambulance.”
    No, you’re not, you’re a paramedic, and a good one at that. I truly wish that more EMT’s, medics, police etc. understood the point you just made.
    Great post!

Leave a Reply