Emergency help--police, fire, and ambulance--should be called promptly. Ask several passing motorists, going in opposite directions, and bystanders, too, to call for help. Asking several people is important in case a cell phone isn't handy. The more people you ask to call for help, the more likely the call will be made.
It's better to have an accident reported by two or three people than not at all because somebody didn't find a phone. A cellular phone, or CB radio also can be used to summon help.
Turn off the ignition switches on vehicles involved in the accident to reduce the risk of fire.
It takes a couple of people just a minute or two to adequately protect victims. It probably took you longer to read these paragraphs than it would actually take to carry out the tasks.
Before attempting to render aid to victims, Bradley says, "If the accident victim is conscious, ask if he wants assistance. If he rejects an offer of help, for any reason, do not aid him." As difficult as it might be, wait for professional help to arrive. If you give aid when a person says he doesn't want it, you might be vulnerable under Good Samaritan laws.
A California Highway Patrolman told me about an accident he once handled where a deaf-mute was thrown from his car in a collision. Well-meaning bystanders moved him from a ditch where he had landed to the edge of the road, despite the speechless man's frantic pointing to his back and shaking his head "no." Fortunately, his back wasn't broken in the accident. Had it been, their action could have resulted in permanent, disabling injuries.
Even if an accident victim says "yes, help me," you still need to be cautious. If there is no immediate danger, why move him? It's usually best to wait for professional help to arrive.
Eighty percent of those hurt in traffic accidents have head injuries. If a person has a head injury, you should assume he also has neck and back injuries.
Bandaging wounds, attempting to splint broken bones, or using more advanced first-aid techniques, especially if professional help is on the way, isn't generally recommended. If an injury is obviously life threatening, and waiting for help would endanger a life, then necessary action probably should be taken.
For instance, if a victim has stopped breathing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or CPR (if you're trained in it) becomes vital. If, on the other hand, the person merely lapsed into unconsciousness but is still breathing normally, heroic measures probably aren't warranted.
If it seems there's little you can do for an accident victim, that isn't so. You can do several "safe" things.
? Cover a victim with a coat or blanket to keep him warm and to prevent shock.
? Shade him from the sun or protect the victim from falling rain to make the victim more comfortable while waiting for the ambulance.
? Talk to victims, reassure them help is on the way. Be encouraging.
? Hold his hand while waiting for the ambulance. While this might not seem like much, it can do a lot for an injured person's sense of survival.
? Use a clean cloth as a compress to stop the flow of blood from a serious wound. In the case of head wounds, however, experts suggest you use as light a pressure as possible because he could have a fractured skull.
What if the car bursts into flames, and there are injured persons in it? Most experts agree that pulling a person from a flaming car, even if it aggravates his injuries would certainly be "leaving the persons better off than you found him."
When it comes to saving a life, most people wouldn't even worry about legal liabilities. As Page points out, "Based on the total lack of reported cases, I would say the potential [for being sued] ranges between slim and none."
Traffic accidents are terrible things. They can be traumatic for victims and bystanders alike. Still, if you ever have to "take charge" at the scene of an accident, keep in mind that your primary job is to help protect the victims until professional help arrives--not treat their injuries.
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