Between July 1997 and August 2000 this study evaluated the benefits of an Automatic Collision Notification (ACN) system for reducing incident notification and response times for vehicular accidents in rural and suburban areas of Erie County, New York. In order to evaluate the impact of ACN, incident notification and emergency response times were tracked for vehicles with and without ACN systems.
Collision event timers (CET) were installed on about 2,600 vehicles to collect baseline data. If participants were subject to a collision, these devices recorded the elapsed time starting at the moment an incident occurred. The data was then later compared to dispatcher and emergency responder records to determine actual notification and response times.
ACN crash detection modules and wireless communications equipment were installed on about 700 vehicles. These systems used accelerometers to detect crashes, GPS equipment to identify vehicle location, and mobile wireless communications to automatically transmit data regarding incident severity, location, and vehicle orientation (car overturned, resting on side, etc.) to emergency dispatchers in the Erie County Sheriff's Office. Dispatchers confirmed incident data by activating a hands-free in-vehicle communication system to question passengers about the nature of their accident, location, and the number of people injured.
During the FOT, 15 of 21 ACN crashes were available to evaluate notification times; however, very little data was available to study response times for emergency medical services (EMS). Therefore, the authors noted that significant conclusions could not be drawn from these small samples.
The average incident notification time for vehicles equipped with ACN was less than 1 minute and in some cases was as long as 2 minutes. The average incident notification time for vehicles without ACN was approximately 3 minutes, and in some cases was as long as 9, 12, 30, and 46 minutes.
In situations where ACN did not function properly the following problems were noted: insufficient cellular phone coverage, damage to ACN equipment during vehicle impact, vehicle battery low, and telephone equipment at dispatch center was temporarily disconnected. In addition, there were 31 false notifications for non-crash events during the FOT. The false alarms were attributed to faulty accelerometer mount installations, or intermittent vehicle power supply failures.