Updated: How to help if you see a car accident

Witnessing a car accident can be almost as frightening and stressful as being in one yourself. Looking after your own safety is imperative if you come across an accident, and there are things you can do to not only protect yourself, but to help others too.

ER24 has the following tips for if you witness or are a bystander at an accident.

  If you’ve just seen the accident

  • Pull your vehicle over and park in a safe position off the road.
  • Turn on your hazard lights and headlights.
  • If the accident is on a blind rise or bend, parking your vehicle back from the accident in a ‘fend-off’ position so vehicles see the accident scene may help prevent further accidents.
  • Put out your warning triangles if you have them.
  • Phone emergency services such as ER24 on 084 124, or Netcare 911 on 082 911. You will need to tell the operator your telephone number (to remain in contact if your phone is cut off), your location and details of what happened.

  Helping the injured

If you know first aid and have a first aid kit, you can help the injured if you choose. Put on the rubber gloves that are inside the kit.

Calm and reassure the people that have been involved in the accident. Make them aware you have called the emergency services and that help is on the way. This may be the only thing and the most important thing you can do to help someone involved in an accident.

The most important principles when helping an accident victim are the following:

  • Be safe.Don’t attempt heroics that could threaten your own safety. You are of no use to anyone if you become injured while attempting to help others.
  • If there is fire or flames, and you have a fire extinguisher, use it and direct the foam/ water at the base of the flames.
  • Do not move the patient or try to remove them from the vehicle unless there is an immediate threat to life, for example the car is on fire and you can’t put it out. There could be an underlying injury to the neck or spine and unnecessary movement could make this worse.
  • If the person is unconscious, open their mouth and check there is nothing inside causing obstruction.
  • Check if the person is breathing.If the patient is breathing leave them in the position you find them and monitor them regularly.If the patient is not breathing and you’ve been trained to do so, you can begin CPR.
  • If a person is bleeding heavily from a wound, take any available material, for example aT-shirt/ gauze from the first aid kit, or grab a towel or blanket, and place it over the open bleeding wound. Then press tightly applying direct pressure to the wound. Maintain that pressure until the emergency services arrive. Do not stop pressing to check if there is continued bleeding or to look at the wound. This procedure may save a person’s life.

  If you’re just observing

Give way to paramedicsand allow them to do their jobs – give them space to drive, park and work.

  Protect yourself and others BEFORE an accident

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