How to Administer First Aid at the Roadside
As a motorist, being prepared means always carrying a first aid kit and getting trained in emergency response skills.
Hence, learning how to administer CPR and first aid (e.g. from a qualified organisation) could empower you to save someone’s life.
The following information covers general assistance first aid rules which may be helpful as part of the general roadside emergency procedures.
Note: The UK Highway Code contains general guidance about administering first aid to a patient at the scene of a road accident.
How to Summon Help
Some of the main car crash dangers to consider dealing with are likely to be the risk of further collisions and the potential for fire or explosions.
Therefore, you should always approach the scene with due caution. Try to switch off vehicle engines, stop anyone from smoking, and try to warn other traffic about the incident.
- Try to get help from any bystanders and make sure someone is calling the emergency services (999) without delay.
- Give the Emergency Medical Services personnel your exact location and the number of vehicles involved in the incident.
- Other helpful information you can give is the condition of any casualties after checking them for (all):
- Responsiveness (signs of life).
- Breathing difficulties.
- Severe bleeding wounds (e.g. arterial).
- Spinal injuries.
D.R.A.B.C. Emergency Response Procedures
- Try to maintain the victim’s body temperature (e.g. by keeping them warm or shaded).
- Protect them from severe weather conditions.
- Try to make them comfortable – but only if you do not suspect they have any spinal injuries.
- Reassure the victims confidently and try not to leave them alone (e.g. monitor their ABCs).
- Allow the victims to wander around at the scene in case they walk into the path of other traffic.
- Give food or drinks (especially alcohol) to the casualties as they might need urgent surgery at a hospital.
- Remove the motorcycle helmets of anyone unless it is absolutely essential to do so.
- Move casualties who are trapped inside a vehicle (unless you perceive there to be a threat of further life-threatening danger).
Important: Generally, the Good Samaritan Law protects any layperson who intervenes to help somebody in an emergency situation from being successfully sued in the United Kingdom.
DRABC Meaning: First Aid Action Plan
First Aid ‘DR ABC‘ driving theory is a memory word acronym. It is the ‘ABC of first aid’ used to guide laypersons through the correct emergency response procedures of a primary survey.
The definition of the letters DRABC stands for Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, and Circulation.
D – Danger: Check that you and any bystanders are not in danger.
R – Response: Try to get a response from any casualties by asking them questions and gently shaking their shoulders.
A – Airway: If the person is not talking, their airway may be blocked. Place one hand under the bony part of their chin. Lift the chin up and forward. If they are still having difficulty with breathing then gently tilt the head back.
B – Breathing: Evaluate whether the casualty has normal breathing. Look, listen, and feel for signs of normal breathing after opening the airway – but for no more than ten (10) seconds.
C – Compressions: Administer chest compressions if they have no signs of breathing and no signs of circulation (pulse).
Place two hands in the center of the chest and press down hard and fast at a depth of five (5) to six (6) cm for adult victims. The rate of compression should be around 120 per minute (e.g. 2 compressions every second).
Determine whether the casualty could have a spinal cord injury. If so, do not move them unless you believe it to be absolutely necessary.
If not, place them in the recovery position if they are unconscious and breathing. Stay with your patient and wait until medical help arrives.
Note: You may only need one hand for a child and should not press down as far. For infants, use two fingers in the middle of the chest when delivering compressions and do not press down too far.
DR ABC First Aid Rules for Bleeding Wounds
First, check for anything that may be embedded in the wound, such as glass shards or metal. If so, taking care not to press on the object, build up padding on either side of it.
If there’s nothing embedded, apply firm pressure over the wound to help stem the flow of blood. As soon as it is practical to do so, fasten a pad to the wound with a bandage or length of cloth. Use the cleanest material that is available.
If a limb is bleeding but not broken, raise it above the level of the heart to reduce the flow of blood. Even so, be aware that any restriction of blood circulation for more than a short time could cause long-term injuries.
DR ABC Code Driving Theory for Burn Injuries
Check the casualty for signs and symptoms of shock, and if possible, try to cool skin burns for at least ten (10) minutes with plenty of clean, cold water or other non-toxic liquid. Do not try to remove anything that is sticking to the burn.
Speeding Up EMS Response Times
A new agreement, signed by Highways England and a dozen or so emergency services across the West Midlands, should see improvements in response times to incidents on the busiest of roads.
In setting out clearer roles, they expect notable advances in efficiency at the scenes of accidents, as well as less disruption created for other road users.
There will be an annual review of the Memorandum of Understanding 2021. But, the primary objectives for the changes will be:
- Improving the overall management of road traffic at the most serious accidents.
- Introducing measures to encourage greater operational cooperation between different response teams (e.g. police, fire and rescue, ambulance services).
- Enabling better information sharing between the different organisations and providing enhanced support when responding to roadside incidents.
Related Help Guides for Motorists
- Warning triangle procedures if your car breaks down.
- Highway Code parking rules explained for learners.
- What is the legal window tint in the United Kingdom?
Note: The short video explains what the acronym DR ABC stands for when First Aiders are conducting the Primary Survey of a casualty.