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Public Expects More from 911

NHTSA Annual Survey - Public Willing to pay more

January 2020 Washington D.C.

Public Expects Capabilities That Many 911 Systems Cannot yet Support, NHTSA Survey Finds

Respondents say they are willing to pay more for expanded 911 services


A survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that more than 90% of respondents expected to receive pre-arrival instructions from 911 operators while waiting for an ambulance. A discussion of survey results can be found in the recently released NHTSA Traffic Tech brief, "The 2016 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey: 911 Systems."

Other findings of the survey, which included responses from more than 5,000 people across the country, include:

  • More than half of respondents did not know if a 911 call center could identify a caller's location without being explicitly told by the caller.

  • More than 90% of respondents expected to receive pre-arrival instructions from 911 operators while waiting for an ambulance.

  • Nearly 70% of respondents indicated they would be willing to pay more for expanded 911 services.

"The implementation of 911 programs across the country is one of the most successful national public-safety initiatives of the last century", said Laurie Flaherty, Coordinator of the National 911 Program at NHTSA. "The results of this survey reinforce how important it will be to continue that success by upgrading 911 systems with modern technologies to enhance safety and meet the public's expectations."


First conducted in 1994, the Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey periodically asks respondents about attitudes, knowledge and behavior related to seat belt use, child passenger safety, 911 and other topics related to vehicle occupant protection. The most recent survey was administered in 2016 and 2017.


The survey also asked questions related to emergency medical services. Some of the findings included:

  • Among respondents who had ever placed an emergency call, 54% reported their most recent call had been to request an ambulance, rescue squad or EMS.

  • Respondents indicated high levels of trust in EMS clinicians, with 99% reporting they were very or somewhat confident that an ambulance, rescue squad, or EMS worker responding to a 911 call would know what to do.

  • Over 90% of respondents considered EMS to be an essential government service.

Read the "2016 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey" to view the full report.

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