With the frightening number of road accidents occurring every single day, everywhere in the world, it seems almost an inevitability that you’ll one day be called on to assist someone involved in one. Here are a few tips and tools to keep in mind if you need to help someone injured in a car accident.
Step #1: Securing the accident scene
- Park your car on the side of the road. If you are the first responder to an accident or someone who can and wants to provide assistance, pull your car to the side of the road. If the victim is in the road, use your car as a barrier. Make sure your car is safely out of traffic lanes and not blocking access to the scene or victim in any way.
- Remain calm. It’s important to you and any victims that you remain calm. This will help you make informed and rational decisions to deal with the accident. If you feel yourself panicking in any way, take a deep breath to refocus or delegate tasks to others at the scene.
- Look over the scene quickly. Although your first instinct may be to call for help, taking a few seconds to quickly assess the situation can help you provide vital information to emergency services. In addition, it may also alert you to things that should be done before attending to victims.
- Call emergency services. Once you’ve made a quick assessment of the accident scene, call emergency services. Provide the person with whom you are speaking any information request to the best of your knowledge. Ask other witnesses and bystanders to call emergency services as well. These people may have additional information or noticed something about the accident and victim you didn’t. Remember that the more information emergency services has, the better they can respond to an accident.
- Warn oncoming traffic. It’s important to let other drivers know that there is an accident that they need to avoid. Using bystanders who warn traffic, or flares, can alert oncoming traffic to slow down. In turn, this may alert other drivers that they need to stop and assist with the scene and any victims.
Step #2: 12 first aid dos and don’ts
- Check yourself first. If you have been injured in the accident, first check yourself for any injuries. Try to assess how well you can move your limbs, and if you experience symptoms, such as dizziness, etc. Remember you need to be fit enough to help the others.
- Check for danger. Before you can approach an accident victim, it’s important to make sure the scene is safe for you, too. Check to see if you see:
- fuel flowing
- smoke, or
- exposed wires.
If this is the case, it may be better to not provide aid and simply calling emergency services.
- Ask the victim about assistance. If the accident victim is conscious, ask if the person wants assistance. This is an important step because not every accident victim may want help, even if it appears the person needs it.
- Avoid moving the victim. Always suspect spinal injuries. If the person’s neck is in an awkward position (not normally placed) or the person is unconscious, do not move them. Get help immediately. This could mean that the person’s neck is broken, and moving them in such a situation can cause more harm than good.
- Check the airway. Breathing is an absolute necessity to any person’s life. If a person is unconscious or loses consciousness, it’s vital to check the victim’s airway to ensure the person is breathing properly. If not, you may need to give CPR to restart the circulatory and respiratory systems.
- Ways to help in grave situations. If there is bleeding from the mouth or the patient is vomiting, turn the person to his/her side. This will avoid any chance of choking. Extend the arm resting underneath them straight out and ensure the arm closest to you is lying across their chest.
- Administer aid, as necessary. Many advocates suggest providing first aid only if the victim has life-threatening injuries. If the victim has injuries that require bandaging, splinting broken bones, or using other advanced first-aid techniques, it’s generally recommended that you wait for professional help, especially if you know it is on the way.
- Treat shock. It’s common for car accident victims to be in, or to fall into shock, following an accident. Shock can be life-threatening if not treated, so if you notice the most common symptom of shock – a pale skin – then treat the person for it.
- Keep the person warm. Usually accident victims feel excessively cold due to shock. Therefore keeping them warm is essential to survival. You can use whatever you have to do this, such as a t-shirt, jacket, etc.
- Comfort the victim. Chances are that the accident victim is scared and possibly hurt. Talking to, and giving, the victim encouraging words can help calm them until emergency services arrive.
- Avoid feeding the person. Don’t give the person any water, food or other fluids through the mouth – it could lead to the patient choking.
- Turn over care to emergency personnel. Once emergency services arrive, let the personnel take over the person’s care. These individuals are better trained to handle car accidents and any injuries.