Road accidents are an unfortunate part of modern life. Although most accidents happen in busy areas and on highways, there are some that may take place “off the beaten track”. This may well mean that the first person on the scene may not be a paramedic, but a regular road user just like you.
“Every motorist has a role to play in making South Africa’s roads safer and even though you can contribute greatly by following reasonable safety precautions and courteous driving behaviour, accidents do happen and it is important to be prepared for them,” says David Stanton, head of clinical leadership of Netcare 911.
“If you do come across a road accident, you may be able to make the difference between life and death to those involved. Remember, in an emergency, even the smallest action can make all the difference,” he adds.
What to do when you come across a road accident:
* The very first thing you have to do is to ensure your own safety. Is it safe for you to be around the accident scene? Your safety is first priority and you cannot help anyone if you are injured or compromised in any way.
* Stop in a safe place, with your hazard lights on and put a warning triangle at a fair distance back from the scene to alert motorists to the possible danger ahead. This will give them enough time to slow down safely.
* Look around the scene for any possible hazards. These may include petrol or diesel leaks, fire, oncoming traffic, dangerous animals or hostile bystanders.
* Assess the scene and see if there are any injuries. If there are, make sure that you phone for help by dialling 082 911 immediately. Remember to give the call taker your number in case the call gets cut off.
* When you call for help, make sure you have the location of the incident handy. If you are unsure of the exact location, the nearest intersection or large landmark would also be helpful.
* If possible provide the call taker with a brief description of the accident scene, the number of injured patients and the nature of their injuries.
* Do not move an injured person unless absolutely necessary as you may cause further injury, especially if the person has suffered spinal injuries. Rather try to keep injured people calm by talking to them and reassuring them that help is on the way.
* If there are any patients who are bleeding heavily, try to stop the bleeding by compressing the wound with a clean towel or piece of clothing.
“There are also a few other things that you should keep in mind in order to prevent further harm to yourself or to those involved,” says Stanton.
What not to do when you come across a road accident:
* Never touch an open wound or any bodily fluids of another person if you do not have the necessary protective gear such as gloves, face masks and eye goggles.
* If a patient has a foreign object impaled anywhere in their bodies, do not remove it unless absolutely necessary as you may cause further harm by removing the object. Wait for emergency medical services to arrive and assist where required.