How to react, respond and treat injured at an accident scene
What to do first
Pull your vehicle over
Park in a safe position off the road.
Turn on your hazard lights and headlights. (Any and all lighting that may help other motorists see that there has been an accident and slow down is necessary.
Don’t put your bright lights on as this may temporarily blind oncoming motorists)
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
What to do next
Phone the emergency services
084 124 is the national number which will connect you with ER24’s Call centre. It is an emergency line where a call taker will request the following information:
Your telephone number (to remain in contact with you should you be cut off)
Your location (street name and nearest cross road)
The details of what has happened, how many people are injured, whether there is e fire, etc.
This will allow the dispatcher to send the correct personnel from the closest area. In addition the call takers are able to give you telephonic advice as to what to do to help the injure on the accident scene
Assisting the Injured
If you have a First Aid kit, take it out of your vehicle.
Put on the rubber gloves that are inside the first aid 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:
Safety – Do not attempt heroics which may potentially jeopardise your own safety. Your safety comes first, before that of the injured.
You are of no use to anyone if you become injured while attempting to help others.
If there is any fire/ 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 attempt to remove them from the vehicle UNLESS there is an immediate threat to life (e.g. the car is on fire and you are unable to extinguish it). There may be an underlying injury to the neck or spine and unnecessary movement could make this worse.
If the person is unconscious, open the 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 have been trained to do so, you may begin CPR and rescue breathing as necessary.
If a person is bleeding heavily from a wound, take any available material e.g. a t-shirt/ gauze from the first aid kit/ a towel/ a blanket/ etc, 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 persons life.
Being a bystander at an accident scene is invariably a stressful event. However if you remain calm, keep your head and follow the above principles, you could be instrumental in assisting, reassuring and even saving the lives of the accident victims. Ultimately we would all like to ‘Arrive Alive’
The public can assist emergency response to arrive alive swiftly at accident scenes. They can do this by:
Ensuring they have information on hand when calling – accurate address details and nature of the incident.
Landmarks are useful and if no street names exist, agree on a meeting area at a specific landmark.
Allowing emergency vehicle right of way to respond to the emergencies and giving way timeously.
Allowing access to the scene of the incident and patient/s.
Send someone to meet the vehicles, ensure that security at entrance points are made aware of emergencies in complexes,
Switch on some outside lights if incident is at night
Clear access routes and lock away any dangerous or vicious domestic animals.
The public needs to be aware of the following
Emergency services personnel need access to the scene and patients and members of the public can assist by allowing this and leaving them to do their jobs.
Once the emergency personnel arrive, leave it to them.
Safety of the public is also a top priority and they must not approach any dangerous area or situation as they may just end up adding to the casualties and increase the workload for the emergency services.
Keep updating the call centre if anything changes or you are concerned about anything else as they may need to change the level of the response or the resources allocated to it and can relay further information to the response team.
The motorist should:
Determine whether his insurance/ road assistance product covers vehicle recovery
If you have insurance cover that includes towing charges, call the emergency towing assistance number
Only use the services of a SATRA or UTASA member to arrive at the scene
Make sure you know your rights – you can decide the party to assist
In most cases you or your insurer will be liable to pay the costs of towing an accident-damaged vehicle.
Always establish the amount to be charged for all aspects including towing, salvage and storage fees.
Get as much information about the tow operator as possible
This includes name of company, driver, and registration of tow truck, physical address and phone
Do not sign anything. If the tow operator insists, make sure that it is ONLY an authorization to tow the vehicle.