When you come across the scene of an accident and there are any injuries, make sure you call for help on 082 911. File photo: Tribune reporter / Independent Media.
Johannesburg - As the number of accidents on South African roads continues to climb, particularly during the Easter and year-end holiday periods, one thing is certain: sooner or latter you are likely to be the first person on the scene of a crash.

The message is that every motorist has a role to play in making South Africa’s roads safer, to be alert and know what to do at a crash scene.

“If you do come across a road accident, you may be able to make the difference between life and death for those involved." said Netcare 911 head of clinical leadership David Stanton. "In an emergency, even the smallest action can make all the difference.”

And that doesn't mean taking over the paramedic's job, he said, but rather helping to ensure that no further harm comes to the injured people in those vital few minutes before the emergency services get there.

He noted these precautionary measures you should apply at a crash scene:

Don't move an injured person:  “Not unless absolutely necessary," he warned. "You may cause further injury, especially if the person has suffered spinal injuries.

"Rather try to keep injured people calm by talking to them and reassuring them that help is on the way.

Create a safe zone: If you are the first to come across an accident scene, make sure they, and everybody else around them, are safe.

“Park in a safe spot with your hazard lights on," Stanton said, "Put a warning triangle far enough back up the road to alert oncoming traffic to the possible danger ahead.”

Assess the scene: "Look around, and ask around, to find out if anybody has been hurt," said Stanton. "Ask how many people were in the vehicle, so you can account for all the occupants - somebody may have been flung out, or trapped under the vehicle."

Phone for help:  If there are injuries, phone for help by calling 082911 immediately - and remember to give the call-taker your number in case the call gets cut off.

Don't do anything without protective gear:  “Never touch an open wound or any bodily fluids of another person if you do not have the necessary protective gear such as gloves, face masks and eye goggles," warned Stanton.

Don't try to remove objects: If a crash victim has a foreign object impaled anywhere in their bodies, don't remove it unless absolutely necessary, as you may cause further harm.

“Wait for the emergency medical services to arrive and assist where required,” Stanton advised - although the best you can do is often just to get out of the way and let the paramedics get to work.

Think it can't happen to you?

Here's a scary thought: Only one in every five people involved road crashes is a driver. Two out of five are passengers in a vehicle driven by somebody else and and one in four is a pedestrian, who wasn't even in the vehicle.

And what should you do right now?

Make sure that the warning triangle in your car is accessible even when the boot is packed full of holiday luggage, and that its folding stand is working, so that it will stand unsupported in the road if necessary.

Tape a resealable 'Zip-Loc' plastic bag containing a pair of vinyl gloves from your local pharmacy and a packet of wet wipes to the triangle, so that the three things you need most immediately at a crash scene are all in the same place.

Being the first person to come upon a crash scene is traumatic; but think how much more traumatic it could be for the people involved if you didn't know what to do.

Sunday Tribune

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