Crash! What To Do When You’re First On The Scene!
If you’re a regular cyclist, you’re bound to end up at the scene of an accident in one form or another, at least once in your cycling career. This may mean that you’re the casualty but more often than not you’ll be riding into other people’s scenarios; they may be other cyclists, pedestrians or other road users but it doesn’t matter – knowing how to react and what to do does.
Cyclists, like motorcyclists, aren’t restricted by the width of a lane and are usually at the forefront of any traffic build up, witnessing an accident first hand. Unlike car drivers, cyclists aren’t trapped by doors either and the responsibility of being a caring human being often falls on you, whether you like it or not – car drivers don’t like to get out of their car’s, do they?
As we enter the transitional period between Summer and Autumn and then again into Winter, the road conditions are going to be changing on a daily basis, from cold, frosty mornings one day to warm autumn sunshine the next. With unpredictable conditions like this, you can bet that you’re going to encounter at least one accident, especially if you’re on the road every day. Because of the extra hazards that come with the changing seasons, such as wet, fallen leaves, slippery road surfaces, lessened visibility and hidden pot holes, riders will have to be extra vigilant if they want to arrive at their destination in one piece!
So, you’ve come around a corner and someone less fortunate has taken a tumble; all you can see is a crumpled bike, a potentially serious casualty and a lot of other people standing around, unsure whether to get involved or simply ignore the situation – what do you do?
Assess The Situation
The first thing that you should do is dismount, park without putting any other road user in danger and quickly assess the situation. While you’re dismounting, look out for any oncoming traffic, debris in the road, other casualties and what could’ve caused the accident. If there are any other people around, try and get them to assist you; they usually do if prompted first. In a crash situation, there are two very important things to do, at almost the same time. If you’ve got another pair of hands, one of you should be clearing the road of any debris and preventing another accident; the other person should be dealing with the casualty.
Clear The Road
If you’re on the clear up duty, firstly you’ll want to make sure that the road is safe to walk on; you could set up a barrier with your bike while you’re picking up the debris and slowing the traffic for added protection. If you can flag down a car driver, they may be able to offer some assistance in some way, one of them may have seen the accident, one may even be a medical professional; if nothing else, they may be able to offer the casualty a lift to the hospital.
Deal With The Casualty…
If you’re in charge of the casualty, you should approach them carefully and inform them that you’re here to help them in a calm voice. Although moving the casualty out of the road may appear to be the safest thing to do, you shouldn’t just assume that it’s possible. Firstly, you should talk to the casualty and ask them as many questions as possible, such as: ‘can you hear me?’, ‘can you see me?’, ‘can you breathe without difficulty?’ and ‘can you walk?’. If the answer is or appears to be ‘no’, get on the phone to the emergency services immediately; the casualty could be suffering from head trauma, abdominal trauma or a whole host of other injuries. If there is any doubt, don’t move the casualty; the adrenaline that floods through the body after an incident may make the casualty appear fine, when they’re actually seriously hurt and any attempt to move them could make the situation worse.
If you suspect that the injuries are only cuts and bruises or a broken bone at worst, it might be worth asking a nearby car driver to take the casualty to hospital after exchanging contact information. If the injury appears to be worse, have a look around the area for any signs that might prove this, like any cracks in the rider’s helmet and the condition of their bike. If it looks like the injury could be severe but below the surface, call the paramedics.
…Whilst Securing The Scene
If an ambulance is on the way, then you’ll need to help clear the traffic build up, so that it can get to the casualty. This can be as easy as waving a few drivers through at a time or as hardcore as orchestrating a cleverly choreographed auto ballet, whichever it is, it needs to be done.
Now, if another vehicle was involved, the same process as mentioned above will still need to be done but on all the parties involved. The major difference is that you should call the emergency services straight away; injuries involving a bike and a car are likely to be severe, so an ambulance will certainly be required but you also want the police to be there too; to see who was right and who was wrong in the eyes of the law, examine all the evidence and keep the traffic in order too.
Check For Hidden Messages
Even if no other vehicles were involved, it’s worth keeping your eyes open and paying attention to every little detail around you. Firstly, look out for any CCTV or traffic cameras; the accident may have been someone else’s fault and the cyclist may have forgotten. Look at the quality of the road; perhaps poor road conditions were responsible for the accident and someone may be accountable. Thirdly, look at the damage done to the bike; if the damage seems inconsistent to the apparent facts, perhaps a mechanical error may have played a part or something else?
If another car was involved, try to collect as many witnesses as possible, along with their contact details and the registration numbers of the nearby cars. If the accident appears to be serious, it may sound like a macabre thing to do but photographing the damage and the casualty’s injuries could be very useful to the authorities later on, especially if any debris and evidence needs to be moved.
Although all of these jobs are usually reserved for the emergency services, if you’re the first on the scene you’ll need to act swiftly and decisively to prevent any further injuries from occurring and also to protect the casualty’s interests later on.
As cyclists, we’re generally good at dealing with these situations already but if we can all look out for one and other on the road, then if any of us are involved in an accident, we’ll have the help and support of many fellow cyclists to ensure that primarily: we’re safe, secondly, that we get the justice that we deserve.
Them roads can be a dangerous place, eh?