DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES— General Motor’s pioneering in-vehicle safety and security technology, OnStar, unveils further findings from its qualitative focus group on the psychological impact of car accidents, this time focused on the perspective of first responders in the UAE. Through qualitative in-depth interviews with UAE-based first responders, spanning various age groups, levels of experience and roles within the first responder units, the research highlighted that when provided with the complete incident information, first responders can conduct their first assessment within 10 seconds, while also bringing to light the significance of human conversation in supporting victims during the process. The findings align with OnStar offering of an Advisor in times of duress, to support drivers, in addition to providing immediate connection between the cars and emergency services, and remote control of features to secure responder attention.
Conducted with RoadSafetyUAE, the research has been designed to better understand the realities of what victims need when in an emergency, in addition to hearing from first responders who attend to these as part of their work. The objective of the second iteration of the research, was to understand what defines a major car accident and how victims react to these, from the perspective of first responders as an objective third party. The findings brought to life the predominant emotions at the time, the responders’ experiences with safety mechanisms in vehicles, as well as highlighted the need for and the positive outlook towards, the concept of Connected Cars and live advisor support in emergencies.
“In our efforts to prioritize the safety of our customers, we wanted to expand our understanding of their psychological wellbeing in the immediate aftermath of an incident, and who best to gain this from than the first respondents at the scene?” said Gary West, Managing Director, OnStar and Future Mobility at General Motors Africa and Middle East. “By hearing from trained professionals, we can continue to better support first responders with information needed to assess the situation and prepare accordingly, before even arriving on scene. Through this in-depth research, we have reaffirmed our understanding of first responder needs, building on the existing strong groundwork in place, to allow for further collaboration. Of the features they claimed would offer most assistance in times of duress, location support, door opening assistance, control of lights and horns to garner attention, are already offered by our security technology at OnStar.”
Thomas Edelmann, Founder and Managing Director of RoadSafetyUAE adds: “In the context of the 4 E’s of road safety (Engineering, Enforcement, Education) Emergency Services is a vital one. Meaning, no one has to die or suffer unnecessarily after a car crash if emergency services arrive at the site of an accident swiftly and with the best possible information. Hence, the OnStar technology is so well received by first responders and this unique research piece shares great insights, thanks to the commitment and the thought-leadership of the OnStar and Future Mobility at General Motors Team.”
The Role of the First Responder
The deep-dive interviews sought to define how a ‘major’ accident is identified by first responders, which is based on the number of people involved, extent of injury and impact on the vehicle. Major accidents are found to be those that require extensive preparation by the first responders as well as a high number of resources to support.
To better gauge the optimum support that can be offered to responders, they were asked to outline their standard process when alerted to an accident. This covered information gathering and response preparation, on scene arrival and assessing site safety, assessing and tending to injury while providing emotional support, and finally the transfer of drivers and passengers to hospitals for further care as needed. In the case of the UAE, while average arrival time cited was 10 minutes, time spent at the site was found to range between from an additional 10 to 40 minutes based on the severity of the case.
First respondents interviewed shared that the drivers they had encountered in accidents showed varying levels of physical and emotional consequences, based on the extent of the incident, injuries sustained and presence of preexisting conditions. Their focus, when on ground, aimed to prioritize attending to those with the most severe injuries and criticality of condition, while also reassuring and comforting victims who might be experiencing shock, immense stress and panic, to avoid further complications.
A key takeaway was that when provided with the proper incident description, responders would be able to complete their first assessment within under 10 seconds, and immediately resort to providing aid where it is most needed. OnStar steps in to offer clarity in situational assessment, to first responders, allowing for increased speed in preparation and provision of aid. When relying solely on the description of accident victims, this is not always the case as one respondent cited “The person who tells us about the accident doesn’t explain what is going on, they just inform us, tells us that there are injuries and tells us the location. We get simple information, but only get detailed information as soon as we reach the site”.
The role of technology in the aftermath of an accident
Reflecting on the current standing of technological support built into vehicles, the first responders found the uptake to be limited – with GPS and cell phone calls being the primary forms of technology included in their interactions. As a result, the interviewed first responders were eager to see connectivity leveraged positively in the future, to overcome work challenges they faced, that could give rise to precious time savings for the teams as they arrive on site.
Having technology supported insights would allow for better planning of resources, while ongoing connectivity would aid in advising people on administration of first aid measures. Respondents claimed that incorporation of technology would “benefit paramedics by helping them get information about the accident.”
In the same vein, first responders reacted positively to the concept of Connected Cars, due to their advanced safety offerings. They perceived the benefits of the Connected Car concept to center primarily around the speed and ease of support provided in accidents, both to themselves and victims. Amongst the features that incited most interest were the auto-alert facilities such as the Automatic Crash Response and the location aid provided, with one first responder sharing “instead of searching we would receive a response or a signal that there is an accident in the specific location”, ultimately saving further time.
Through Connected Cars, they would not only be offered immediate connection, but would also be able to access pinpointed locations via use of GPS services. In the case of OnStar*, this is taken a step further as Advisors can also support responders by sharing additional information gathered when reassuring victims such as on the number of cars involved, age of victims, emotional state, level of injuries and urgency of aid. First responders also reaffirmed the importance of human conversation as a vital aspect of support, while also allowing for testing of consciousness levels, securing a better injury diagnosis, and offering comfort to reduce stress. This is especially critical, as one respondent shared “We try to avoid panic causing another problem”.
The remote unlock service proved especially promising in helping responders easily support disoriented or unconscious victims. This feature is critical as responders interviewed stated that time spent on site could range up to 60 minutes in the case of a person being stuck within the vehicle.
Looking ahead, further systems that were recommended by first responders as the next iteration of technology imbedded in vehicles, included alert systems to inform drivers of on road incidents, smart driving and sensors attuned to pre-existing driver conditions. These findings will prove invaluable when further advancing the safety features within Connected Vehicles, and will no doubt make a difference in the life-saving efforts undertaken by first responders.
This research has been conducted with five UAE based first responders who have been involved in offering aid during major car accidents, hence findings relate to this target group. This might not be representative of all first responders in UAE, hence results to be read accordingly.