Road accidents are one of the major causes of death. Every year, thousands of people in Australia died or acquired injuries due to road traffic accidents.
Based on our latest national road toll data as of November 2020, there were 1,132 recorded road deaths. This is a decrease of a total of 3.7% from the 12-month period of November 2019.
At present, the annual death rate stands at 4.4 per 100,000 population.
Common Cause of Road Accident Deaths
While the lack of proper roads, rash, drunken and negligent driving can be partly blamed for such a high number of deaths and accidents, a large portion of these deaths can be attributed to the fact that most of the victims involved in the accidents did not get proper medical attention and first aid on time.
Road accidents occur fast and unexpectedly. Most of it happens away from our homes and we could find ourselves in a situation where we have to waste valuable minutes waiting for help and assistance to arrive.
Many lives could have been saved if immediate first aid was administered in the first few minutes of the accident.
First aid intervention increases the victim’s chances of survival and prevents the occurrence of lifelong disabilities. These three reasons are enough to underline the importance of basic road safety awareness and knowledge of first aid.
We are going to look at each of these life-saving steps that everyone should know in case of a road accident emergency.
Arriving at the accident scene
The first thing to do when you come across a road accident is to assess whether the scene is safe to enter and accessible before attempting to render first aid. Although our instinct may tell us to call for help, taking a few seconds or minutes to quickly check the scene and assess the situation will be a big help in providing vital information to the information services.
- Establish how many vehicles have been involved in the accident
- The number of occupants per vehicle
Scene assessment will ensure that you are in a safe situation too, as the last thing we need is for you to be added to the list of casualties.
Check for Injuries
If you have been involved in an accident and got yourself injured, check yourself first for any injuries or heavy bleeding. If you are conscious, try to assess the current situation and check if you can move your arms and limbs and/or if you are experiencing dizziness or other mild symptoms. Self-assessment will let you decide whether you are fit enough to help others and not further cause your injuries.
Check out other victims
Once self-assessment is made and you are fit enough to help, check for the other victims, and see the extent of their injuries. When deciding who to prioritize to help, use the primary survey in first aid.
The Primary Survey is the initial process you do when you come across a casualty. It is the quickest way to find out how to treat any life-threatening conditions in order of priority.
A primary survey will help you not to forget the necessary steps and prevent you and the casualty from getting hurt. The DRSABCD guide can be used in the primary survey: Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, and Circulation.
Call Ambulance Services
Once you have made a quick assessment of the scene and check for injuries, call triple Zero 000 for help or if you are unable to, ask the bystanders to make the call.
Immediately call for an ambulance or emergency medical services (EMS) to inform them about the incident. Provide the dispatcher any information request to the best of your knowledge.
The emergency dispatcher will ask for your name, the name of the casualties (if available), their age range and your phone number in case authorities will need to get more information from you later.
You will be asked to provide the information you know about the emergency – for example, what vehicles are involved, are the casualties not breathing, etc.
Let them know where exactly the emergency took place. If the information is available, give them the road name, city, mile markings, traffic signs, and any information you can think of that will help first responders know how and where to find you.
Do exactly what the emergency dispatcher asks you to do. While waiting for the EMS, they will guide you on the next steps or if there is the need to perform CPR and/or rush the victims to the nearest medical facility.
Providing Aid to the Victims
1. Check the airway
We all know that breathing is an absolute necessity in a person’s life. In a road traffic accident, it is vital to check the victim’s airway to ensure that the person is breathing properly.
If the casualty has stopped breathing, check his/her mouth for any obstruction. Use your index and middle finger to remove the obstruction and to clear the airway.
2. Perform life-saving techniques
Start with checking the person’s chest to see it is rising and falling. If there is no pulse and shows no signs of breathing, perform CPR immediately. CPR will help restart the circulatory and respiratory systems allowing the casualty to retrieve normal breathing.
When performing CPR…
- Make sure that the person is lying his back on a firm surface before positioning your interlocked fingers on top of their chest.
- Press down on the chest for about two inches to give chest compressions. Repeat and give at least 30 compressions at the rate of 100 compressions per minute. To make it easy, push it to the beat of the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive.”
- Gently tilt the back of the person’s head and lift the chin to open the airway. Proceed with giving rescue breathes until you can see the chest rise.
- Place the victim’s body in the recovery position (on their side) to protect their airway and support their neck to prevent further injury while waiting for the emergency services to arrive.
3. Treat bleeding wounds
Most road accident injuries involve bleeding. The bleeding can be stopped by applying continuous pressure to the open wound using a clean cloth or soft pad. Press down using your palms and once the bleeding has stopped, you can proceed with applying treatment to the injury.
4. Dealing with Spinal Injuries (Always suspect spinal injuries)
Neck and spinal injuries are expected in a road accident and unless the doctor cleared the victim, always suspect a spinal injury. Notice if the person’s neck is not normally placed – if it isn’t, it is best to not move them unless they are in immediate danger (road traffic). Rough handling or moving the casualty with suspected neck and spinal injuries can cause more harm and may even cause death.
5. Keep the victim warm
Research proves that the core and skin temperature can dramatically fall when the injury was severe. Hence, the reason why the victims feel excessive cold after the accident is due to shock.
Keeping them warm right after the incident is crucial for their survival. Use a jacket, a blanket, a pullover, or whatever available in the scene.
At some point, many of us will witness or be involved in an accident or medical emergency. To prevent the incidence of fatal road accidents in the country, we need to know how to deal with road traffic accidents.
Knowing what to do, when, and who should you call during a road accident can potentially save lives.
About The Author:
Sharon McCulloch is an experienced Emergency Care Registered Nurse, and First Aid Instructor. She runs her First Aid Training Organisation on The First Aid Course Melbourne.