High standards of driving make it safer for all in these services
Now the Emergency Services Driving Standard has been extended to the voluntary sector
Emergency Services Driving Standard (ESDS) is a voluntary standard.
It is for emergency service organisations and is overseen by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
It was developed out of a concern about the absence of a national driving standard for emergency service drivers.
RSA wrote to the main emergency services in mid 2011 with a view to setting up a new driving standard.
There was a positive response to the request and so in autumn 2011 a Working Group which included An Garda Síochána, Chief Fire Officers Association, HSE National Ambulance Service, Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC), Defence Forces, Irish Coast Guard; Civil Defence, Irish Prison Service, National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, set about introducing the new standard.
A structure that sets and maintains a high level of driving standards for emergency service drivers makes sense.
Given the nature of their driving and the added risks, these drivers need to have a standard of driving that is an example to other road users.
We can create a culture of safe and responsible driving by having those tasked to keeping our roads safe or responding to emergencies trained and certified to a level that is above the rest of the driving population.
ESDS is a voluntary standard. There is no legal requirement for drivers of emergency service vehicles to undergo additional driver training.
However, a formal arrangement is in place between the RSA and the various organisations to copperfasten the nature of the services and everyone's responsibilities.
The RSA has certified professional trainers to deliver the required driver training.
Some of those trained are staff within the emergency service itself.
So the RSA remains the overarching body with total responsibility for the theory test, practical assessment and certification of emergency service drivers.
There are three driving standards or Levels that a driver can achieve.
Level 1 focuses on becoming a socially responsible driver.
Knowledge of driving laws, rules and vehicle operation are part of this phase.
Level 2 focuses on 'Roadcraft' and a methodical approach to driving. Level 3 deals with driving vehicles under response situation.
At the end of each level the driver has a greater awareness of the necessity to share the road in a safe way and the ability to choose ways of driving that reduces the risk of collisions or incidents.
Since this went live in February 2015, the ESDS unit has issued 952 certificates across all levels and training categories. The majority are among the gardai, followed by the Fire Service, then the Defence Forces and the Prison Service.
One category we haven't been able to accommodate in the initial phase is the private and voluntary emergency service sector: Mountain Rescue Vehicles and Rapid Response Medical Units for example. Organisations in this sector are keen to have their drivers attain a nationally recognised certification.
We have had several expressions of interest from private and voluntary organisations with commitments to have 600-700 drivers ESDS certified.
In particular there has been keen interest from the Private Ambulance service. They recognise that such training will allow their drivers to drive safely during the course of their duties.
A year after the ESDS driving standard went live, the RSA is now extending it for private and voluntary drivers with a target of mid-April 2016 as the 'go live' date.
More details are on rsa.ie