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First Aid for Car Crashes

A big crash happened right in front of me today while I was at a stop light.  The sound of crunching metal and screeching brakes is truly frightening and it was clear help would be needed.  I crossed the intersection and parked my car and ran across the street to see if I could help.  Surprisingly, the man driving the car that was hit was not hurt.  The young woman in the car that struck him was on the side of the road sitting on the curb and profusely bleeding from her nose and face.   She appeared to be in shock.

What do you do in a situation like this?  The first thing to do as a first responder is to keep calm yourself.  Quickly assess who needs assistance first.  Do not move victims unless they are in a dangerous situation.  If the victim is conscious ask simple questions:  "What is your name?", "Are you in pain?" "Do you know the date?"  While you are doing this, make sure someone else is calling 911 for assistance.  If other people are around,  instruct them to make sure traffic is diverted to avoid more problems.

If someone is bleeding, try to find a clean cloth and apply direct pressure to the area.  Do not worry about hurting them if there is a wound.  The victim will not feel the pressure as pain and it may just save their life as blood loss is one of the more serious outcomes of trauma.  Try to be reassuring as much as possible with statements like, "You are going to be OK", "Help is on the way", "I will stay with you, don't worry".

If there are many victims try to deal with the most seriously injured first.  Try to keep the victims on the ground (sitting or lying) and calm.

Today, I practiced all of these techniques.  I  stopped the facial bleeding (with her own scarf)  and made sure there were no serious hidden injuries.  I assessed a broken hand and that there was no obvious neck or head injury.  She was crying but was able to answer simple questions.  I kept the victim quiet and reassured as much as possible until the paramedics arrived to transport her to the hospital.

It is unlikely you would be able to administer CPR at an accident scene.  Most victims that are unconscious are not flat on the ground where chest compressions can be given.  It is better not to move someone from the car until professional help arrives.

I will probably not know how this accident or the young woman who was hurt turned out.  When the paramedics arrived, I just removed myself from the scene and went on with my busy day.


They were so lucky you were there to help. Thank god no one was seriously hurt.
Anonymous said…
Wow, Toni. You are truly amazing. How many times now have you been the first responder? I can remember at least three and there are probably more. These people can be truly grateful that you were there.
Anonymous said…
They were lucky you were there and knew what to do, alot of people panic and make a situation worse or just get in the way.
You actually ended up at that exact place and time for a reason.
Toni Brayer, MD said…
Peggy and Anons: Thanks for the comments. Yes I guess I have been a first responder many times. I'm always glad to have the training to help. Interesting but I have never been thanked, even when it was a dramatic life save. The thanks comes from within and from my blog. Haha.
These are such important reminders. Thank you!
Tyra Shortino said…
Kudos to ya. A car crash is a high-impact situation in many ways. It's likely that the passengers have acquired an injury or two, and for bystanders, seeing the crash can be pretty jarring. It takes a lot of focus to help without worsening the harm done on the injured.

Good for you, for being there to do what help you can do.
Cary McNeal said…
I'm glad you were there, T. I hate witnessing car accidents. Thanks for the pointers.
Anonymous said…
"It is unlikely you would be able to administer CPR at an accident scene. Most victims that are unconscious are not flat on the ground where chest compressions can be given. It is better not to move someone from the car until professional help arrives."

One thing about leaving a victim in place until EMS arrives:

If the victim in question isn't breathing or has no pulse (conditions under which CPR is administered,) removing them from the vehicle to perform CPR is the prudent course of action given that they will die without oxygen.

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