Original Research

Does driving using a Green Beacon reduce emergency response times in a rural setting?


Tom Mallinson1 MRCGP, Prehospital Physician *


1 BASICS Scotland, Sandpiper House, Aberuthven, Auchterarder, PH3 1EL, Scotland, UK

ACCEPTED: 28 August 2020

early abstract:

Introduction: Green Beacons (GBs) are used by many doctors across the United Kingdom when responding to emergencies, particularly in rural areas. These are used to alert other road users to the doctor’s urgent need to reach a destination, with the hope that members of the public will make provisions for the doctor to make progress unhindered.  While such warning lights have been used for many years, there is a paucity of research into the safety and efficacy of their use.  This pilot study aims to explore whether the use of Green Beacons does lead to reduced response times in rural areas, and will record any accidents occurring during such emergency response journeys.
Methods: A repeated measures design was devised to investigate this question. The response times and distance travelled for ten consecutive emergency journeys undertaken by a rural primary care and prehospital doctor during the winter of 2019 using Green Beacons were recorded. The same journeys were then repeated, at a later date by the same driver, under normal driving conditions, with no Green Beacon use. Travel times were compared for both journey types.
Results: Travel times were on average 4 minutes shorter when responding using Green Beacons (range 0-13 minutes) with statistically significantly faster average speeds during the emergency response journeys.  There was also a trend towards higher average speed with longer journeys. No accidents occurred during either type of journey.
Conclusion: The use of Green Beacons when responding to emergencies in rural Scotland appears to reduce journey times and appears safe in this exploratory work.  This is in-keeping with other researchers work into the use of blue and red emergency vehicle lighting, and does not dissuade from continuation of current practice among doctors in the United Kingdom. Further research in this area would benefit from a larger dataset, and quantitative time-motion data from the vehicles involved.