Our ‘My First...’ series offers easy-to-remember advice in a bullet point-style for a selection of first times on a bike; from the first time you get a puncture to the first time you change your oil, we’ve got some top tips to help you out.
The first time you come across a motorcycle crash scene it’s easy to panic and make crucial errors. Here’s what to do.
In terms of preparation, there are two things to do before you even go out on a ride. Firstly, download the What 3 Words app. This gives you a simple way to tell the emergency services precisely where you are – often a problem if you come across an accident half way across some Yorkshire moor 30 miles east of the A1. Just doing this could save another rider’s life. Secondly – and admittedly this involves more effort – get some specialist first aid training from Biker Down (type that into Google to find your nearest one or search for ‘Biker Down UK’ on Facebook). It takes three hours and it’s free. You’ll wish you did it years ago. For the purposes of this list, we’ll assume you’re a first aid novice though.
So, here’s the process if you come across a bike accident.
Stay safe. Your number one priority is not becoming a casualty – if you get splatted by a passing truck that’ll help no-one. Your first job is to find a safe place to park. It’s best to ride past the accident (if it’s safe) and park there – your bike offers little protection to casualties, it means you’ll walk to the scene facing oncoming traffic and if the road ends up being shut, you can ride home. If it’s night time, leave lights and hazards on, with the engine running if necessary and use your phone torch so any traffic can see you.
Take a deep breath, don’t panic and walk to the accident (don’t run). This gives you time to start working out what’s happened and helps stop the instinctive fight or flight responses taking hold – if you’re panicking, you’ll probably make bad decisions. Be aware that the biggest risk to you and others is traffic. This may mean you have to get this under control before you manage the casualties, i.e. you may have to walk past injured people to sort the traffic (see 6). For this example, we’ll assume traffic isn’t an immediate problem. If it is, deal with it now.
If you don’t have the What 3 Words app, work out where you are. This is crucial – you’ll need the info when you call 999 in a few seconds. If you still don’t know, look on your phone’s map app, ask passers-by, knock on doors, look for landmarks.
Quickly assess the scene to get the basic information the 999 operator will ask for. How many casualties are there? Don’t just count the casualties you can see - check pillion foot-pegs, count the number of rucksacks, look for any boots and gloves etc to see if there were two people on the bike. Remember that riders may have been thrown out of sight. What state are the casualties in? Are any bleeding heavily? Are any unconscious?
Phone 999 – don’t delay doing this. If everyone is up and about, an ambulance may not need to attend, but the police might, especially if there’s a question mark about fault. Also, people may go into delayed shock, so if in doubt, ask for an ambulance.
Get helpers. If other people have turned up and are milling about, take charge. If the accident or a casualty is in an unsafe position (round a blind corner, for example), get someone to station themselves around the corner on the verge and slow traffic. If that’s not possible, move the casualty out of harm’s way. The only time you should move a casualty is to save life and/or prevent further injury.
If the road is blocked by rubber-neckers, ask one or two helpers to safely keep the traffic flowing, if it is safe for them – you don’t want the ambulance stuck in a queue. These helpers need to be confident and mature – they’ll need an air of authority to get drivers to do what they want and be sensible enough not to make the situation worse. Get someone else to knock on any nearby doors and ask for a doctor, nurse, or qualified first aider.
Prioritise the casualties. If someone is shouting or screaming, they’re breathing and may not be the priority. Get a helper to try and comfort them. You’re looking for people who are either unconscious, and/or have catastrophic bleeding.
If someone is unconscious, check their breathing. If they are not breathing, you need to change that fast or they will die. If you have a helper, get them to place both hands on the casualty’s chest and press hard (depressing 5cm, which is a lot), pushing out air. Then tell them to relax, and the ribs will inflate the lungs. Repeat until the ambulance arrives or breathing starts. Move on to the next casualty. Some basic CPR training would boost your confidence and help you get this technique right (that’s a hint…).
If someone has a catastrophic bleeding from a limb, you need to stop it or they will die. You’ll know catastrophic bleeding when you see it – there will be pints coming out. This is not just a bad cut. Apply direct pressure to the wound if possible and if you have had some training then don’t be afraid to apply a tourniquet – you can improvise with a belt or luggage strap if necessary.
Keep talking to casualties, alternately reminding them that help is on their way and distracting them with idle banter. You might feel useless, but it’s reassuring for them to know that they’re not on their own.
When the emergency services arrive, be honest. If you were riding in a group and know your mate left the road above the speed limit, tell the medics the exact speed. It will affect the kind of injuries they look for and fibbing could put their life in danger.
Many thanks to Tom Rolands and Jim Sanderson at Biker Down for their help putting this feature together. The course is brilliant. For more information, go to facebook.com/bikerdownuk