First Aid at the Roadside


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There are an estimated 300,000 casualties from road accidents every year in the UK and knowing some First Aid could help save a life. Carrying a First Aid kit in a car or on a motorcycle is highly recommended, so that there is basic equipment available should there be an accident.

It must be stressed that there is no comparison to going on a First Aid training course, and that the following advice must be taken in that context. is the St John’s Ambulance website where more information about going on a First Aid course can be found.

These are some basic tips to help in a road accident situation in which there is a casualty:

1. Make sure the area is safe

It is important to make sure that there is no further danger at the scene of the road accident. Ensure that approaching cars are aware of the hazard and turn off the ignitions of the vehicles involved. Ask a bystander (if there are any) to call the emergency services as soon as possible.

Take a few moments to view the site of the car accident and to look at the casualty to see what kinds of injuries are likely to have been sustained. If it is possible that the casualty has suffered trauma, and may have broken bones, head injuries, neck injuries, or internal injuries, it is essential that they are not moved.

2. Check if the casualty is conscious

See if the road accident casualty is conscious or unconscious by tapping them on their collarbone and shouting to them. If they are unable to talk, ask if they can open their eyes.

If the casualty is a motorcyclist, do not remove the helmet, whether the casualty is conscious or not. Helmet removal must only be carried out by trained medics because if it is done wrongly, it can cause additional injuries.

3. Check the casualty’s airway

First aid authorities recommend the following action to check and clear a casualty’s airway. To check if it is clear, place a hand on their forehead, and gently tilt the head back. Look in their mouth to see if there is any visible obstruction, such as their tongue having fallen back into their throat. Once this is done this, lift their chin using 2 fingers. This helps the airway to clear.

If the casualty has broken bones or other trauma, such as neck or back injuries, avoid moving their head at all, just raise the chin.

20% of the fatalities on Britain’s roads are caused by obstruction of the airway, so making sure it is clear is a priority. If unsure how to go about it, check if any of the bystanders have First Aid knowledge, or speak to the emergency services operator.

4. Check the casualty’s breathing

It is useful to be able to tell the emergency services whether the casualty is breathing or not, and this can be done by:

- Listening to the mouth for sounds of breathing

- Feeling for breathing by placing your cheek over the mouth

- Watching the chest for signs of rising and falling

5. Symptoms and treatment of shock

A road accident casualty who has gone into shock shows symptoms such as cold, clammy skin, rapid and shallow breathing, thirst, and a rapid, weak pulse. Shock is caused by loss of blood, and means that oxygen is not travelling around the body properly.

To help slow down shock until medical assistance arrives, try to keep the person warm with coats or blankets, reassure them, and, if possible, get them to lie on the ground with their legs raised. Slowing the loss of blood is something you may be able to do if it is caused by an external wound, but not if the blood is being lost internally.

6. Slowing an external loss of blood

Wear disposable gloves if possible, and look and feel for blood on and under the casualty. To staunch a bleeding wound that has nothing embedded in it, apply direct pressure to it. Ideally use a dressing, but if a dressing is not available then your hand should be sufficient. If there is something in the wound that should not be there, such as glass for example, do not apply direct pressure to it, but press it together from the sides.

A First Aid course will teach these skills in a lot more detail, as well as teaching additional skills such as CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). Learning what to do for casualties in a road accident is something that could save lives, and a short course with a First Aid authority is highly recommended.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a road accident and are considering a personal injury claim, George Ide, Phillips may be able to help you. For free advice on claiming compensation, go to or call on 0808 144 0043.

Editorial notes: George Ide, Phillips provides no fee, no cost access to personal injury compensation and have specialists in road accident claims. If you have been injured in a road accident that was not your fault, go to or call 0808 144 0043 for free legal advice.

Author: Alexandra Gubbins. For more information, please visit or call 0808 144 0043.


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