England

West Midlands' 999 vehicles 'crash five times daily'

Police car Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Two police officers were injured when a man drove into the side of a police car in Dudley.

More than five emergency vehicles have crashed a day on average in the West Midlands in the past three years.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws showed 5,992 crashes were recorded between 2012 and 2014.

During that period, Birmingham student Xuanwei Zhang died after being hit by an unmarked police car in Birmingham in April 2012.

Also in 2012, two men had to dive out the way after a fire engine smashed into a phone shop in Birmingham.

Owner, Jamil Mahmood, said: "There was a fire engine doing a three-point turn and it crashed into the shop, narrowly missing one of my customers and a family member.

"It missed them by inches, they had to jump out the way."

'Highly trained'

West Midlands police, fire and ambulance services recorded 2,728, 281 and 81 crashes respectively, the figures show.

Police figures showed 64 of the force's vehicles were written off in crashes.

More than 350 people suffered injuries ranging from broken ribs, whiplash and a ripped spleen, it also confirmed, but the figures did not include the death of Mr Zhang.

Xuanwei Zhang

  • Was studying for an MSc in data networks and security at Birmingham City University
  • After his death the university paid for his family to come from China, and for the repatriation of his body
  • A memorial service was held in the university's School of Fine Art
  • On the anniversary of his death, the family were presented with his posthumous postgraduate degree

In one crash in Dudley last year, two police officers were injured when a man drove into the side of a police car.

An inquiry is also taking place into the death of Harry James Kirkham. Mr Kirkham was hit by a police car in Birmingham in March this year, although this is outside the timeframe for this data.

West Midlands Fire Service said most accidents involved vehicles travelling at "slow speed".

"We continue to implement measures and awareness campaigns to reduce these," it said in a statement.

The ambulance service said crews are highly trained but rely on the help of other road users.

"The majority of collisions are down to drivers either panicking when they hear a siren or see a blue light, or not being aware of blue-light vehicles using the road," a spokesman said.

Damage 'inevitable'

A police spokesman said it was not clear why Mr Zhang's death had not been included in its figures.

Staffordshire Police recorded 912 while Staffordshire Fire service recorded 120.

Staffordshire Police Supt Mick Boyle said they constantly monitored the driving standards of employees. The county's fire service has declined to comment.

In Warwickshire, there were 546 crashes involving police vehicles and 102 involving fire vehicles.

West Mercia Police recorded 1,143 crashes while Shropshire Fire and Rescue recorded 68.

A spokesman for both police forces said officers are sent for retraining on a regular basis if required, and future driving performance is monitored to ensure no further incidents are recorded.

The spokesman added that due to the nature of the role of the police, damage was inevitable. He added that in the future, the fleet would be fitted with a telematics system which will mean accidents and incidents can be monitored in greater depth.

CRASHES BY AUTHORITY: 2012, 2013, 2014
West Midlands Police: 2,728
Warwickshire Police: 546
Staffordshire Police: 912
West Mercia Police: 1,154
West Midlands Ambulance: 81
West Midlands Fire Service: 281
Warwickshire Fire: 102
Staffordshire Fire: 120
Shropshire Fire: 68
Total: 5,992

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