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Accident Scene Management

As motorcycle riders we are all aware of the inherent dangers and risks that we take when we mount our bikes and head out to enjoy a good ride. Yes, it is that part of our shared passion that many of us donít want to think about. However, these dangers and risks become all too apparent when we are faced with situations when a fellow rider is involved in an accident. If you are riding alone or in a group and you find yourself in a situation where a rider has gone down, ask yourself honestly, do you know what to do?

I would like to share some tips on how to avoid being a part of an accident and what to do should you happening upon one.


If an accident does happen, stop and dismount in a SAFE PLACE. Place a road guard-anyone available, immediately, to control traffic.

This basically applies to group rides when there is a train of riders behind you. Suddenly stopping to assist in an accident can cause riders behind you that are unaware of the accident to slam on there brakes or swerve to avoid you and possibly add to the accident.

If you are riding alone be aware of your surroundings and the traffic around you before pulling off to assist. You do not want to get hit from behind because you slowed to quickly and the car behind you did not have time to react.


The first thing you need to do when arriving on an accident scene is to stop, calm down, and take two deep breaths to help you remain calm.

The idea of psychological management is that all the other people who are pumped and want to help will do whatever they are told to do by a calm person who seems to be in control and knows what he or she is doing. If you're excited and out of control as well, everyone will run around wasting precious time in an unorganized fashion. Not good.

1) Get to victim, reassure, establish communication.

After a person has gone down, they will be in a confused and scared state. They probably don't know what happened when they went down. They may be confused, frantic, etc., and often the only thing on their mind will be their bike. It is important to reassure them and to make sure they will not try to move or get to their bike. Something on the order of, "You've been in a motorcycle accident. It is important that you do not move. My name is (**whatever your name), and I am here to help you. Tell them the ambulance is coming (assuming someone has been sent to get one or has called for one!) If your name is something like "Chainsaw'' or "Mega-death'', please use your real name!

Be careful what you say around the victim, even if they are unconscious. Hearing works in the unconscious state and if you say something like, "Boy, this dude messed up bad! Maybe we shouldn't call an ambulance after all!'', is going to register at some level with the person and will do nothing to help you keep them calm. How you say things will be as important as what you say; keep (or at least sound) calm and it will reduce the panic of everyone else present.

2) Safety factors

An accident scene can be a hectic place with a lot of things going on at once. It is important to keep safety in mind; if you are helping someone lying in the middle of the road and a semi comes barreling down on both of you, you aren't going to do that person much good.

a. Traffic

If people are available, get someone up road and down road to wave down traffic. This is especially important in tight twisties where they may not have time to stop after seeing the accident site.

b. Hazardous material spills (gas, oil, brake fluid)

People and vehicles will slip on this stuff. If ambulance personnel slip on oil while carrying the victim, it is bad. Either clean it off the road or indicate to everyone where it is.

c. Power lines

If power lines are down around or near the victim, ambulance crews may not be able to get near the person until they are shut off. It is important to call the local utility company to get these live wires turned off at the same time an ambulance is called. If the ambulance arrives and they are still live, they will have to call the utility company and wait for them to come out, wasting a lot of precious time in the Golden Hour.

d. Fire

People who smoke tend to light up under stress. Ask these people to either extinguish their smokes or move away from the flammable materials and/or bikes. It is easy to forget something obvious like this in a stressful situation like an accident scene.

e. Safety circle

Establish a few people around the immediate accident scene to help direct traffic, to point out fluid spills, and to warn people who may want to light up

3) Best-trained individual (medically-wise) attends to victim (U-ABCC)

The person with the most training (first aid, CPR, etc.) attends directly to the victim. Assuming the victim is lying on the ground, this person should sit behind their head and should stabilize his or her head to avoid unnecessary movement (i.e. hold their head still). Assume the person has a back/neck injury and any unnecessary movement could risk paralysis.

This person should be doing "U-ABCC'' at the arrival on the scene and every 5 minutes thereafter

U Urgency

Try to determine if the person's injuries are (a) minor or (b) major, i.e. urgent. If unsure, it is urgent. See (6) on trying to diagnose injuries.

A Airway

Is there something to impede their airway? Gravel in the helmet, something down the throat? This needs to be cleared immediately, without helmet removal if at all possible.

B Breathing

Is the person breathing? Determined by listening, watching their chest, feeling for breath, etc.

C Circulation

Check the pulse on the throat initially and subsequently on their wrist. This is the carotid artery, right next to the wind pipe/adam's apple on either side. If pulse is not present, remove helmet if necessary and begin CPR immediately. When checking pulse on their wrist, do not check with thumb; use the two fingers next to the thumb.

C Cervical Spine Immobilization

Support the victim's head and make sure they don't move it. CONSIDER EVERY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT A HEAD INJURY, CONSIDER EVERY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT A CERVICAL/BACK INJURY! This is important even if they feel they can move their head normally! When you talk to the victim initially, add on a short bit to reassure them. If when you talk to the victim, they shake their head affirmatively, tell them NOT TO! We don't want to aggravate any spine injury by the victim shaking their head. Your victim may be combative, head injuries will do that. Expect that. It may take more then one to hold/keep the victim quiet.

"You've been in a motorcycle accident. It is important that you don't move. My name is (whatever your name is). Answer me without moving your head. We don't know if you have a neck injury or not. An ambulance is on the way.''

Again, make sure that the victim does not move at all, their head or any other part.

4) The three questions

Ask the victim three questions and document their responses; Who are you? Where are you? What time of day is it? (Or asking what day of week it is would be fine also. Many people do not know what time of day it is without a watch even in a normal state.)

5a) If breathing is taking place normally, LEAVE HELMET ON!

It is very dangerous to remove someone's helmet if they have some type of cervical/back injury. The only time it should be removed is if the airway is blocked and cannot be cleared with the helmet on or if it is necessary to perform CPR.

5b) helmet removal procedure if airway blocked or no respiratory action.

This is the method recommended by the American College of Orthopedic Surgeons. It requires two people.

Remove glasses and unbuckle the chin strap. One person should be to the side of the head of the victim and the other person should be directly behind the head of the victim, stabilizing the head to avoid excess movement (as seen in (3)).

The person on the side puts one hand behind the victim's head supporting at the base of the skull (not on helmet). They put their other hand on the jaw bone/chin (again, not on helmet). They will be supporting the head, so it is important to get a good solid grip. Keep some tension in the arms so that if the person pulling the helmet slips the victim's head won't drop.

The person sitting behind the head will then slowly pull the helmet directly back and off of the head. Watch out for catching the nose on the chin-guard on full-face helmets, as well as ears and earrings.

After the helmet is off, put a leather jacket or something under the head of the victim! If the person supporting their head lets go, their head will drop a good 4 inches or so. This would not be good. If possible, it would be best to have a third person ready with something to place under the victim's head once the helmet is off.

After the helmet is off, the person behind the head should again hold the victim's head to promote cervical immobilization.

AGAIN, THIS IS ONLY TO BE USED IN SITUATIONS WHERE THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION! Leave the helmet on until the ambulance personnel arrive if at all possible!

6a) After initial evaluation of seriousness of injuries, call for ambulance

After there has been a quick evaluation of the number of injured people and just the most preliminary guess of seriousness, someone has to be sent to get an ambulance. Remember that an ambulance can only support one truly injured person.

It is important to remember that a lot of the injuries that don't look serious to us could very well be life-threatening and injuries that look fatal are relatively minor. Don't get fancy with the initial seriousness evaluation. If you can't tell, assume it's Urgent!

If a cell phone is not available, send one or two bikes to the nearest house. Send a woman if possible. The idea is that you don't have time to be turned away from someone's house and they are more likely to be receptive to a lady than some Scary Biker Dude. It may sound silly, but if you are turned away from a country home due to looking like a Scary Biker Dude, you may lose several minutes trying to find the next one. Selection of who goes to call is very important.

When you go to the door, REMAIN CALM... THINK! Take a second and a couple of deep breaths. It will not help to have this biker person in a very excited state on the doorstep of some person's home. The people will be far more receptive to someone who looks like they have a grip on themselves.

Do not ask directly for entry into their house; something like "There has been an accident. Please call 911.'' There is no need to specify that it was a motorcycle accident to them (it is important to let the Emergency Medical Services dispatcher know that it was a motorcycle accident, however). It is less threatening to ask to call 911 than it is to ask to come in and use their phone.

6b) Things to tell Emergency Medical Services dispatcher

1. there has been a motorcycle accident

2. need an ambulance

3. the # of injured people (and how badly injured they are). A severely traumatized person will require an entire ambulance to themselves, so it is important to give the EMS dispatcher some idea of the scope of the accident. If they only send one ambulance and there are two people who need one immediately, it will be a problem. 4. location of accident

(get help from the people whose phone you're using, they should know how to describe their location best)

5. You (the caller) hangs up last!

The EMS dispatchers are well-trained and will get all the information they need from you before hanging up. Stay on the line until they do.