More firefighters were killed last year in vehicular accidents on the way to fires than in blazes, according to a new study that suggests bad driving habits may be endangering some firefighters. The findings by the National Fire Protection Association showed there were more vehicle-related deaths in 2003 than in any year since 1977. The study suggests firefighters should abide by rules of traffic safety that are sometimes overlooked as they rush to an emergency.
Wearing safety belts, driving sober, obeying traffic signs, and reducing speed can help firefighters prevent road deaths, said an NFPA official. Alcohol played a role in a crash that killed eight Oregon firefighters last year, according to the study. It showed 33 firefighters died nationwide in on-duty crashes in 2003, while 29 firefighters died battling blazes. Stress and overexertion remained the leading cause of death of firefighters. Last year, 47 firefighters died from stress-induced heart attacks, the study found.