First aid after a car accident

Life can be unpredictable. Sadly, car accidents can occur, and when they do, you may be caught off-guard and unsure of what to do. We spoke with Michelle, an Advanced First Aid Trainer, for some car accident first aid tips.

Call emergency services

Whether you’re involved in a serious car crash or witness a serious crash occur, the first thing you should do is call Triple Zero (000). Michelle from Asset College states this should be the priority.

“Call Triple Zero (000) immediately or ask a bystander to make the call. Don’t assume that someone else has already called,” Michelle says.

St John Ambulance Australia outlines what you should detail to the emergency line operator in the event of an accident:

  1. Ask for an ambulance to be sent to the scene
  2. To the best of your ability, give the exact location of the accident. This could include giving the street name, suburb, or any landmarks nearby
  3. Give the approximate number of casualties that you’re aware of
  4. Let the operator know the type and extent of injuries and if anyone is trapped on the scene
  5. Advise of any other emergency services that may be needed, such as fire services, if there is a gas leak or a fire
  6. Give your phone number to the operator and be the last one to hang up.

Learn and memorise DRSABCD

DRSABCD is a mnemonic that will help you, the First Aider, remember how to provide basic life support1. The DRSABCD is an action plan that helps you assess the emergency situation and guide you through the first steps for giving quick, life-saving first aid.

Danger

Check for danger and ensure the scene is safe. “Assess the scene for safety before rushing in,” Michelle says.

“There could be many dangers that you can't see in a state of panic. Remain calm. The safety of the First Aider is paramount.”

If it’s safe to do so, switch on a vehicles’ hazard lights and headlights, and turn off the ignition in a vehicle.

Response

If the casualty is unresponsive, try to get a response by asking their name or squeezing their shoulders. If they respond and are conscious, begin attending to any other injuries (severe bleeding first) they may have. If not, continue the DRSABCD steps.

Send for help

Call Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance or instruct a bystander to contact them. Stay on the line.

Airway

Check their airway. If the unconscious casualty is sitting upright, but their head is slumped forward, their airway may be obstructed.

St John Ambulance Australia states:

“Many people are afraid to move the casualty’s head for fear of causing spinal injury; however, spinal injuries may not kill the casualty – whereas a lack of air (because the person's airway is obstructed by their posture) definitely will.”

If you notice a casualty in the car who is slumped forward, lift up their chin and move their jaw forward to allow them to maintain an open airway. If there is an obstruction in their airway, use your fingers to clear out their mouth.

Breathing

Check that the casualty is breathing normally. If you’re unsure, place a hand on their stomach and your ear to their mouth. If they aren’t breathing, commence CPR.

CPR

CPR can help a casualty by pumping blood around the body, and providing air to their lungs. CPR involves only two steps: 30 chest compressions followed by two breaths2. The First Aider performing CPR should continue this until help arrives or the casualty begins to respond and breathe unassisted. An accredited First Aid course can help educate you on how to safely perform CPR.

Defibrillation

If the casualty is unconscious and not breathing, apply a defibrillator (if available)3. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can be found in many public locations such as shopping malls, public transport hubs, and sporting facilities . Follow the voice commands given by the machine, or any instructions or pictures found on the AED. If defibrillation prompts a response from the casualty place them on their side in the recovery position. Don’t remove the pads.

An accredited First Aid course will show you how easy it is to use an AED.

Prioritise who you help

If you’re at the scene of a major car accident, there may be several people who are injured. It’s important to prioritise who you help at the scene of an accident.

“As you are [calling Triple Zero (000)], triage the casualties,” Michelle says.

“Determine who is most in need of help and who can possibly wait. Commence first aid.”

Check for unconscious casualties and check their breathing. An accredited First Aid course will teach you how to prioritise injuries in the case of an emergency, so that the highest priority casualty can be attended to first.

Complete a first aid course

You may be interested in completing an accredited first aid course to learn more from the professionals. A first aid course will show you how to give help in the event of an accident or emergency incident. Certified providers include your state’s St John Ambulance service and the Australian Red Cross.

If you wish to know more about how to handle a minor car accident scene, take a look at our article on what to do after a car accident. It’s important to make sure your car is insured in the event of an accident where you may be at-fault. Australia Post has a range of coverage options for cars.

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