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Ambulances Go High-Tech To Prevent Crashes

NEW YORK (CBSNEwYork) -- In an emergency, every second counts. But driving at high speeds can compromise the safety of first responders and civilians.

As CBS 2's Maurice DuBois reported, there's now a device that's helping some ambulance drivers operate more safely as they work to help others.

"Back in the early 2000s, we had a couple of severe accidents that our staff were involved in, and it became a real issue for us," explained Robert Luckritz, director of emergency medical services at Jersey City Medical Center.

The hospital took action to reduce the number of future accidents, installing a safety device that is placed under the driver's seat in each of their ambulances. It tracks in real time what's going on with the ambulance in terms of speed, g-force, seat belt usage, lights, sirens and other parameters.

That means drivers are alerted with beeps and other sounds when they drive too aggressively. When they drive too fast, take a turn too hard or even operate outside of other established safety guidelines, they are constantly alerted.

"We actually provide feedback to our drivers on a regular basis to let them know where it is that they stand in comparison to other drivers, and they're able to look at how many times do they operate outside of the parameters," Luckritz said.

Crowded intersections and high rates of speed are just a few of the causes that lead to an estimated 10,000 ambulance crashes every year.

"They get that adrenaline rush and they start speeding up, and what this does is it doesn't delay you responding to the emergency, it makes sure that you're operating in a safe manner," Luckritz said.

EMS crews say they welcome the feedback they receive from the technology.

"It makes it a lot safer for both us and other people out on the road," said driver Anthony Burgos.

"It's a hard balance because you want to make an appropriate response time, but it's important to keep the safety of your crew and yourself in mind," added driver Andrew Valenzuela.

Jersey City Medical Center has the only ambulance service in northern New Jersey that uses the device. The FDNY is considering adding it.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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