In 2017, 24,831 people were seriously injured on the road in traffic accidents in Britain. Of those 1,793 people killed on the roads in Britain, the highest annual total since 2011…

Most of these road fatalities (1,544) occurred in England, over three-quarters (83%) of road deaths in the UK

The highest number of fatalities were car users, both drivers and passengers, who accounted for 44% of road deaths; and the majority of these deaths (60%) occurred on rural roads.

Five people in Britain die in traffic accidents every day and countless more are seriously injured.

Prompt and appropriate first aid saves lives – learn simple steps that would enable you to help

In most EU countries, first aid forms a mandatory element of driving tests. However, in the UK first aid training does not form an integral part of the test and consequently most UK drivers involved in accidents are unlikely to have the necessary skills to help if they are first on scene at a road traffic accident.

Key things to prepare to reduce chances of traffic accidents:

Ensure your vehicle is always in peak condition – check the tread on the tyres, your car is clean and in great working order.

Planning – know your route, roughly how long it should take you and alternatives for known traffic hotspots. Do not rely entirely on the Sat Nav. Getting lost is stressful and that in itself, can prove dangerous.

Don’t strap in wearing a coat as your seat belt will not be as effective. This is particularly important when strapping children into car seats as they can literally slither out in their coat.

Never drive when tired and always check side effects on prescription medication for any risks that they could cause drowsiness. Take the advice seriously.

Minimise distractions – if children become fractious during a journey, stop at the first safe opportunity. Never be tempted to try and help them whilst driving. Pets should ideally be in travel cases or travel safely and comfortably in the boot of an open hatchback.

Mobile phones, Sat Nav and other technical distractions are dangerous.

Stop regularly – have planned stops on your journey and be aware of time to next service stations etc, when on the motorway.

Cyclists and motor cyclists

Cyclists and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable road users. It is vitally important that everyone on a bike knows how to respond if there is an accident.

If cycling with children and teenagers, reinforce how important it is that they should never overtake lorries, buses and other large vehicles on the inside. Also, explain the significance of vehicle blind spots.

Car seats

It is critical that children are in the most appropriate car seat for their height and weight. UK law states children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm (4ft 5in) tall, whichever comes first. But safety experts recommend you use a child car seat for all children under 150cm (4ft 11in).  The driver is legally responsible for children being in car seats while travelling.

You must wear a seatbelt if there is one fitted to the seat you are in. Failure to wear a seatbelt carries a £500 fine.


How to help at the scene of traffic accidents:

Your safety is always the priority when approaching the scene of an accident. Ensure all traffic is stationary and people are aware that there has been an accident. If there is spilled fuel or other fire hazards turn off car ignitions. Turn on vehicle hazard lights and use a warning triangle if possible.

If there are other people around, ask them to phone the emergency services. However if you are on your own, your priority is to assess the situation and treat any life-threatening conditions first and then call for an ambulance.

Quickly establish how many vehicles have been involved in the collision 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 motionless.

If anyone is not moving:

Immediately gage whether they are conscious 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 will be able to hear you, even if they are unconscious and keep them warm and dry.

Unresponsive and not breathing:

If the casualty is not breathing you will need to resuscitate them. If you are on your own and haven’t called an ambulance yet, do so now. Ask the emergency services for their advice on the best way to resuscitate. However, it is extremely difficult to resuscitate a casualty is in a car.

When to move them from the vehicle?

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. It is very difficult to extricate an unconscious person from a vehicle; there is a major risk of exacerbating their injuries and of injuring yourself in the process. Call the emergency services and they will advise you how to help.

Bystanders can care for conscious casualties and remove them from the wreckage to a safe area. Ensure any major bleeding or life-threatening injuries are treated first. Be aware that casualties might be dazed and confused and could wander off into danger. Therefore, be sure to keep a close eye on them. Brief the bystanders to keep the casualties warm and calm and assist them to contact their next of kin.

Monitor carefully anyone trapped in the vehicle and ensure that the emergency services are notified immediately. If someone has been crushed; note the exact time that the accident occurred; this is important in deciding on how and when to release the casualty. If there are additional people around, show them how to support and stabilise the casualty’s head.  This will avoid them twisting and exacerbating any possible spinal injury. Control any severe bleeding – 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 may need an operation later- it is always safer for someone to have an empty stomach when undergoing a general anaesthetic.

Motorcyclists and pedestrians

Only remove their helmet of a motorcyclist involved in the accident if they are unconscious and there is no other way to assess their breathing or their airway is in danger. For example, it is generally sensible to loosen their chin strap and there is usually a way of lifting the visor;

If a casualty has been hit by a car or thrown from a car and they are lying on their back unconscious and breathing – someone should carefully roll them into the recovery position to keep their spine in line. Ideally, more than one person should do this, to avoid twisting the spine.

Hiowecer, if a casualty has been hit by a vehicle or thrown from one and they are conscious in the road, encourage them to stay 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.


Written by Emma Hammett RGN

We cover care of head and spinal injuries, bleeding and burns on most of our courses and have a specific online course to help upskill and refresh your knowledge and ability to help at the scene of a road accidents or traffic collisions.

We strongly advise 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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