First aid: Road Traffic Accidents – how to help

Road Traffic accidents – how to help!

On the 11th November there will be a National Road Safety Seminar and the Government has launched an excellent designed for children and teenagers to make them more aware of the dangers on the road.

In most of the EU Countries people learn First Aid as part of their driving test – this does not happen in the UK. Accidents happen and if involved in an accident it is a legal requirement to stop at the scene – but how many of us would know how to help when people are injured?

I have put together a step by step approach as guidance should you be the first on scene at an accident:

  • When approaching an accident scene the most important element is your safety. Make sure that all traffic has stopped and it is flagged up that there has been an accident otherwise there may be additional casualties. Be aware of oncoming traffic to ensure that is not posing an additional danger. Note if there is any fuel spillage or potential fire risk – turn off car ignitions if possible. Put on hazard lights and encourage other cars to do the same.
  • If other people are around get them to phone the emergency services – if on your own assess the situation and treat any life threatening conditions first.
  • Quickly establish how many vehicles have been involved and assess the occupants of all the vehicles to ensure no one has life threatening injuries.
  • People screaming, crying and making a noise are breathing – your initial priority is anyone quiet and not moving.
  • If anyone is not moving quickly establish if they are responsive: – if there is no response check if they are breathing. If they are unresponsive and breathing ensure they are in a position where they are leaning forward or to one side in a position where the airway will remain open. Move them the minimum necessary and avoid twisting them. Keep talking to the casualty calmly as they can hear you even if they are unconscious. Keep them warm.

Support their head and neck and keep checking they are breathing

  • If there person is not breathing you will need to resuscitate – if you are on your own and have not called an ambulance – do this now and ask their advice as to the best way to resuscitate, as this is not easy to do in a car.
  • Only remove an unconscious person from a vehicle if there is an immediate danger to their life from fire, flood, and explosion….ask the emergency services over the phone for their advice as to what you should do. It is very difficult to extricate an unconscious person from a vehicle and there is a major danger that you could exacerbate their injuries and injure yourself in the process.
  • Conscious casualties should be entrusted to the care of bystanders and removed from the wreckage to a safe area. Be aware of confused and dazed casualties who may wander into danger. Brief the bystanders to keep the casualties warm and calm and help them to contact next of kin. Look for any major bleeding and life threatening injuries and treat these. Note the nature of the wreckage and be aware of possible injuries as a result: bodies are softer than metalwork, so if there is major damage to the vehicle it is possible that there could be internal injuries to the casualty – ensure the bystanders notify you if there is any change in the casualty’s condition.
  • Anyone trapped in a vehicle should be monitored carefully and the emergency services notified immediately. If there are additional people around, show them how to support the person’s neck to avoid them twisting as there is the possibility of a spinal injury. If there is severe bleeding this will need to be controlled – wear gloves and apply dressings.

Support the head and neck to avoid them twisting – do not cover their ears, keeping talking to them calmly

  • Do not allow anyone to smoke at the scene or give the casualties anything to eat or drink following the accident in case they later need an operation.
  • If a motorcyclist is involved only remove their helmet if they are unconscious, there is no other way to assess their breathing or their airway is in danger.
  • If a casualty has been hit by a car and they are lying on their back unconscious and breathing – they must be carefully rolled into the recovery position to keep their spine in line. This should ideally be done with the support of others to avoid twisting the spine.

  • If a casualty has been hit by a vehicle or thrown from one and they are conscious in the road, they should be encouraged to keep still. Support their head and neck, keep them warm and dry and wait for the emergency services.

Everyone on the road should have a suitably stocked First Aid kit and know how to use its contents.

It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

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