How to React at the Scene of a (Motorcycle) Accident

Everybody crashes
Crashes happen quite a lot on pretty much any roads, with no exceptions. You might run into a crash scene on a remote country road, just like you could be involved in a highway accident or meet someone in need in an alley around the block.

There is no motorcycle rider in the whole wide world able to make it safely through all the nasty scenarios which might develop in just seconds, on the road. No matter how many years you have been riding now, or how many bikes, there's always a chance for some things to go wrong, if not horribly wrong.

That's exactly why knowing as many things as possible about how to react in such cases might be of crucial importance. And even more, spreading the news and teaching others may save lives from now on.

Don't panic!

While the present piece is not an official manual for intervention in the case of a crash, it sheds some light on some of the key elements which might contribute to a better, happier if possible, way for things to unfold.

Most of you have happened to be the first ones on the scene of a crash and it makes little to no importance whether you were riding or driving a car. It really doesn't matter, as long as you get there safely and walk out safely as well.

The first thing is yourself, as weird as it may sound: since you're the first one to roll up to the accident, you're the most important active element for now. Don't panic: if you give in to panic, fear or even worse – hysteria, then you won't be able to act, you won't be able to make decisions, and your potential help may lead to opposite results, or become null, at best.

Even if you're having a hard time seeing blood or injured people, as long as you're the only one there, bear in mind that it could have been you lying on the road: the first man at the scene is all you / they have for now.

Assess the situation!

With crashes sometimes occurring in places with poor visibility, one of the good initial things to do is get your ride out of the potential incoming traffic. It's really no use to have another car or motorcycle crash anew in a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road. So for starters, be a tidy guy and pull over.

While analyzing the situation, remember that you're on a road and incoming vehicles may be unaware of the crash until they are very close to the scene. Be ready to signal incoming traffic to slow down by waving your hand up and down, just like pressing an imaginary spring; this movement is recognized by all drivers and riders as it is also used by policemen to slow down traffic.

If you are driving your car, placing a warning reflecting triangle in the middle of the lane, at a decent distance, is mandatory and will help you a lot.

One of the first and most important things is to evaluate the present situation: determining how many vehicles have been involved in the accident and finding the victims. Even when we're dealing with a single motorcycle, you should always remember that bikes are also made for two-up riding.

Given the particular circumstances of each accident, it is possible that a pillion rider was thrown off the bike and is not in plain sight, so learning about the existence, whereabouts and condition of all victims diminishes the chances of casualties increasing due to being left undiscovered in due time.

If motorcycles are involved, taking a quick look at the passenger pegs could indicate whether a passenger was present, since most motorists riding solo will have the pillion foot rest up.

Fuel leaks, smoke, fire, boom!

In case of a motorcycle crash, there's a very big chance of fuel leaking from the ruptured tank or fuel lines. Cars can also leak fuel after being impacted and this is a major source of danger. You should bear in mind that, as the unhappy event occurs, the vehicles are usually in operation and this means a live electric system which can subsequently produce sparks and cause leaked fuel to ignite.
Watch for fuel and similar fluids spilled on the road and turn off all ignition devices if you can reach them. Shutting down the electric systems has 99% chances to prevent a fire or an explosion. At the same time, you should observe for smoke indicating possible fires already started; just make sure you don't mistake smoke for coolant steam.

Accident victims

No matter which vehicles have been involved in the crash, the human life will be forever far more valuable, so after seeing that electrics are off and the fire hazard poses no threat, it's now time to see about the victims.

One of the most important things about accident victims in the first place is to determine whether they are alive. It may sound a bit rough for some ears, but in case some are dead, it's really no use spending time with them, when you could be helping others who are still alive.

You should be checking for pulse: pressing your finger on the victim's wrist is usually the easiest and most convenient way to determine whether their heart is still beating.

Checking carefully for breathing problems is also helpful. You should try talking to the victims and see whether they respond to auditory stimuli or not. Some may have sustained only minor injuries and fainted: talking to them could, in some cases, wake them up and a better evaluation of the situation could therefore be made.

In case accident victims are alive, breathing and yet remaining unconscious, you could do very well and assume they have serious injuries and unless you're a trained professional, it's better to leave them as they are until the quick response team arrives.

Don't move the victims

If the victims are unconscious, you should leave them as they are until the health unit arrives. There is no telling as to what kind of injuries they might have sustained and moving them around could make them worse.

More than one case with the victim's condition worsening after being moved was recorded; dragging, pulling, lifting and so on may cause even worse injuries so it's to be left for the trained professionals.

However, in case of severe danger such as fire or explosion hazard which cannot be counteracted in place, or heavy traffic, or other (thankfully rather few) imminent perils, it's advisable not to move the victims.

A special remark must be made here when the accident involves motorcycles: it's a very good idea to leave the helmet on! Since motorbike helmets usually fit snug on the heads of motorists, they require a bit of force to be taken off, and if the rider has already sustained spine injuries, trying to remove the headgear can result in very bad aggravation of the condition.

Medical personnel trained or quick response in case of accidents have their own methods of determining whether such injuries have occurred, and they also have ways to remove helmets safely, even if they need to be cut open and the likes of that.

At the same time, since most riders are usually wearing leather or textile gear, not seeing blood and flesh does not mean they're ok. The main role of protective gear is to prevent abrasion caused by sliding on the asphalt, and the small hard-shell parts such as elbow, shoulder, hip or spine protectors are going to stand against only a fraction of the damage.

Recruit help, call for help

Provided you're not all alone on that road, you should not hesitate to ask for other people's help as they arrive at the scene. It could prove that among them you'll find people with medical or emergency response training which could be a very valuable element in coping with the present situation.
While “recruiting,” please keep an eye on the guys and see that they refrain from the things you also avoided, such as moving the victims, taking helmets off, etc. At the same time, make sure you all leave as much as possible debris where it is: to an investigator, all these parts can offer precious information. The aftermath of an accident has its own language and things which might seem unimportant to the untrained eye may prove to be key elements in the ensuing investigation.

After quickly assessing as much of the scenario as possible, you should call the emergency response team (112 in Europe, 911 in the US). They will ask you to name the nature of the emergency and you should make sure you explain the situation in clear terms, so they can send in the right units needed.

Try to give enough details for a quick and accurate localization of the accident site: the faster the response team gets to the victims, the more chances they have. Make sure you ask for a fire squad in case you believe there are risks of fire or explosions. In case chemicals are involved, please do mention this to the emergency unit operator.

The 112 / 911 service will usually get in contact with the closest police units as you speak, so calling the cops yourself may prove to be useless. Calmly give the officers the details they ask for and describe what happened before you arrived; try to make no assumptions if you haven't been an eye witness for the crash.

Please share the information in this article with your fellow riders, friends and relatives, riders, drivers or passengers, as being able to properly react in the scenario described could save lives. And check back with us in the future for more automotive guides!
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