Coming across a bike accident scene, especially a serious one, is probably the one thing most bikers hope never to experience. Yet as Think Bike members with an always-help-another-biker culture, we rarely shy away from stopping and helping if we can.

When I recently stopped at an accident scene on the N1 just outside Pretoria, I realised that short of ensuring that the emergency services were called and that nobody removed the injured rider’s helmet, I wasn’t really sure what to do. This prompted me to seek expert advice, so that next time (and I really hope there isn’t a “next time”) I will be better prepared. I approached the friendly folks at ER24, one of the major private emergency services, and asked them for advice.

Safety First
The first thing they told me was that you should ensure your own safety. When you arrive on the scene, make sure that you park in a safe place, and keep a lookout for oncoming traffic – you won’t be of much help to anybody if you are injured yourself. If warning signs are available, put them out to warn other road users of the dangers ahead. Remember to put them far enough away from the scene to give road users enough advance warning.

If the injured rider is lying in the roadway, it’s a good idea to ask somebody else to park a car between the rider and the rest of the traffic, and to turn the car’s hazard lights on. And if you’re a wearing a reflective bib or any other brightly coloured item of clothing, don’t take it off – it will help make you more visible to other road users

Be Still, my Patient
Don’t try to move the injured biker, unless he is in immediate danger of getting injured further by other road users. He might have suffered injuries not visible to you, and moving him could aggravate those injuries. If it is absolutely necessary, move the rider as a unit and prevent his neck from moving independently from his body. This should be done by four people – one person holding the neck and head, one person grabbing his shoulders, one person grabbing pelvis and one the legs. Move the rider on the count of the person holding the neck.  

Truss ‘Em Up
Support fractured limbs to minimize movement that could cause more damage – any hard straight object could be used as a splint. Alternatively, just hold the fractured limb steady to minimize movement. Don’t try to align a fracture – you could cause further damage and bleeding if you do.

Room to Breathe
Try to support the neck so the rider can maintain an airway by holding the neck and head aligned. Place the palms of your hands on either side of the rider’s jaw with fingers towards the back of the neck. If the rider is vomiting, turn him on his side to ensure that he doesn’t choke, and open the helmet’s visor. Use the technique discussed above to move the rider.  Don’t remove his helmet – helmets can only be removed by trained medical personnel. Also, don’t remove any clothing unless it is causing strangulation.

The Pressure’s On
Stop any excessive bleeding by putting direct pressure on the wound, or by applying a pressure bandage. Blood loss can be dangerous – as you probably know, a person who loses a lot of blood can die from it, so treat it seriously.

The Walking Wounded
Always insist  that the injured rider be seen by a paramedic. An accident victim may be able to stand up or walk around, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t suffered internal injuries that may escape the untrained eye. Calm the rider down, and get him to sit or lie down to prevent aggravation of the injuries.

Go On, Make the Call
Phone the emergency services immediately, or if you’re busy, ask somebody else to do it – mere minutes can sometimes make the difference between life and death.
When reporting the accident, make sure you know where you are. Identify your location from landmarks, road signs and intersections, and give the operator this information to ensure that paramedics get to you quickly. Then, reassure the injured person that help is on the way.

Mayday, Mayday
You can phone 112 free of charge, irrespective of your cellular network, and they will transfer your call to the appropriate emergency service.

Also keep the following additional emergency numbers handy – you never know when you may need them:

ER24: 084 124
National Emergency Number: 10177
Netcare 911: 082 911

You may not want to be in the situation, but if you are and you know what to do, you can make a big difference. So if you’re among the first people to arrive at a bike accident scene, stay calm and remember these tips – you might just save somebody’s life.


© Dries van der Walt, 2008. Click on 'About' to see copyright information.