Road accident

Between June 2016 – June 2017 there were 27,130 people killed or seriously injured as the result of road accidents. First Aid is a compulsory unit of driving tests in most EU countries. However in the UK, only the most basic first aid knowledge is required (just a couple of questions in the theory test) which means many drivers involved in accidents are completely powerless to help in any road traffic accidents they may be involved in.

Cyclists are particularly vulnerable road users and it is vitally important that you know how to respond if there is an accident. If you are cycling with children and teenagers, reinforce that they should never overtake lorries, buses and other large vehicles on the inside and explain the significance of their blind spots.

Find here the Top Tips to Prepare for a Safe Car Journey

Should you be the first on scene at an accident:

  • Your own safety must be priority when approaching the scene of an accident. Make sure that all traffic has stopped and that people have been alerted that there has been an accident to prevent additional casualties. If there is any spilled fuel or other fire hazards turn off car ignitions. Always turn on vehicle hazard lights and use a warning triangle if there’s one available.
  • If other people are around get them to phone the emergency services however if you are on your own, first assess the situation and treat any life-threatening conditions first and then call for an ambulance.
  • Quickly establish how many vehicles have been involved and assess the occupants of all the vehicles to ensure none of the casualties have life-threatening injuries. People screaming, crying and making a noise must be breathing – your priority at this point is to check anyone quiet and not moving.

If anyone is not moving:

Ascertain whether they’re responsive or not. If there is no response, check if they are breathing.

Unresponsive and breathing:

Ensure they are in a position where they are leaning forward or to one side to ensure the airway remains open. Move them as little as possible and avoid twisting them. Keep talking to the casualty calmly as they can hear you, even if they are unconscious. Keep them warm.

Unresponsive and not breathing:

If the person is not breathing you will need to resuscitate them. If you are on your own and haven’t called an ambulance yet, you must do so at this point. If necessary, ask their advice on the best way to resuscitate as it’s not easy to do if they are in a car.

Only attempt to remove an unconscious person from their vehicle if there is an immediate danger to their life, e.g. from fire, flood, or explosion. Ask the emergency services over the phone for their guidance as to what you should do. It is very difficult to extricate an unconscious person from a vehicle and there is a major risk of exacerbating their injuries and of injuring yourself in the process.

Conscious casualties should be taken care of by bystanders and removed from the wreckage to a safe area. Be aware that casualties maybe dazed and confused, it is important to keep an eye on them and be sure they do not wander into danger. Brief the bystanders to keep the casualties warm and calm and help them contact their next of kin. Ensure any major bleeding or life-threatening injuries are treated first.

  • Note the nature of the wreckage and be aware of possible injuries as a result. Bodies are softer than metalwork, so if there is major damage to the vehicle, there could be internal injuries to the casualty. Ensure bystanders notify you if there is any change in a casualty’s condition.
  • Anyone trapped in a vehicle should be monitored carefully and the emergency services notified immediately. If someone is crushed, note the exact time when the accident happened as this is important in deciding on how and when to release the casualty. If there are additional people around, show them how to support the person’s neck to avoid them twisting as there is the possibility of a spinal injury. If there is severe bleeding this will need to be controlled – wear gloves and apply dressings.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke at the scene or give the casualties anything to eat or drink following the accident in case they need an operation later.
  • If a motorcyclist is involved only remove their helmet if they are unconscious and there is no other way to assess their breathing or their airway is in danger. There is usually a way of lifting the visor, it may be sensible to loosen their chin strap.
  • If a casualty has been hit by a car and they are lying on their back unconscious and breathing – they should be carefully rolled into the recovery position to keep their spine in line. Ideally, this should be done with the support of others to avoid twisting the spine.
  • If a casualty has been hit by a vehicle or thrown from one and they are conscious in the road, they should be encouraged to keep still. Ensure that someone is directing traffic and maintaining safety. Support their head and neck, keep them warm and dry and wait for the emergency services.


It is strongly advised that you complete an online or attend a practical first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Visit, or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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