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To stop or not to stop? Here's what to do if you see an accident

Got a motoring question or looking for some advice? We’re here to help.

Image: Shutterstock/BACHTUB DMITRII

Got a question? Need advice? Submit your queries to melanie@thejournal.ie.

THIS WEEK, A reader asks: If I witness or come across a road traffic accident, what should I do? Do I need to stay at the scene?

The answer: Although modern cars are becoming safer and new tech is being fitted to help us avoid collisions, accidents are still quite common on our roads. Between 2005 and 2013 there was an average of 5,882 road traffic accidents each year in Ireland.

So, what should you do if you witness or come across an accident? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Remain calm. It can be quite a shock to see a road accident, especially if there are people injured or a lot of vehicles involved.
  • If you didn’t actually witness the accident and there are others at the scene helping then there is no need for you to stay at the scene.
  • If you witness the accident, you can stay at the scene until the emergency services arrive and give them your contact details.
  • If you witness the accident but can’t stay at the scene, you should report what you saw to An Garda Siochana as soon as possible.
  • If you come across the accident and you are one of the first to arrive at the scene then park your car safely out of the way, turn off your engine and turn on your hazards and parking lights.
  • If you have a high-vis vest put it on and get any torches and first aid kits out of your car.
  • If you have a warning triangle place is behind the accident to warn other road users – but do not put one on a motorway.
  • Call 999 and give them as much information as possible. The more information you can give them the quicker they can get to the scene and the more help they can give you for dealing with the situation.
  • Look for markers on the road, LRI signs on a motorway and national roads or use your car’s sat-nav or phone’s GPS to give the emergency services your exact location.

Source: Shutterstock/Dmitry Kalinovsky

  • Quickly assess the situation but always make sure you keep yourself safe. Work out if there are any dangerous elements to the scene and if anybody has been injured.
  • The main thing you should be thinking about at the scene is this: “What can I do to protect victims from sustaining additional injuries?”
  • If nobody else is taking charge, try to organise other bystanders or witnesses so that they are warning oncoming traffic or looking out for the emergency services or looking after the people involved in the accident. Encourage rubberneckers or those that don’t need to be there to move on to give those involved some privacy.
  • Make sure nobody smokes at the scene in case there is an undetected fuel leak.
  • It is advisable to turn off any cars that are still running as this reduces the risk of starting a fire.
  • Speak to the people involved and try to keep them calm and warm. Wrap coats or blankets around them. Reassure them that help is on the way.
  • Do not move anyone who is injured unless there is a risk of fire or if there is a risk that the vehicle they are in may overturn.
  • Do not give injured people anything to eat or drink.
  • Do not remove helmets from injured motorcyclists.
  • If help is on the way it is better to wait for the professionals than try to administer first aid or treat injuries unless the emergency operator instructs you to do so. However, if an injury is life threatening and waiting for the emergency services isn’t an option then necessary action should be taken – eg if you need to give mouth-to-mouth to someone who has stopped breathing.

READ: Improve your driving by learning some advanced driving skills >

READ: Dear Driver: What do I need to know when buying child seats? >

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About the author:

Melanie May  / https://www.melaniemay.com

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