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Five things you need to know if you come across an injured motorcycle rider

More than 50 motorcyclists are injured every day on average on UK roads so the chances of you coming across a downed rider at some point are high. But would you know what to do if you came across an injured biker after a motorcycle accident?

Official figures highlight why motorcyclists are classed as vulnerable road users. In the 10 years between 2010 and 2019, 187,563 riders were injured as a result of a motorbike accident.

As part of our motorcycle accident awareness campaign, we want to stress the importance of knowing what to do if you come across an injured rider, even if you don’t have basic first aid training, and that doing the wrong thing may lead to further harm.

If you are unsure of what to do if you come across an injured biker after a motorcycle accident, then the best thing you can do is call 999 and wait for medical assistance.

But this list of five key steps will equip you with the basics to ensure you are able to provide help if you are the first at the scene of a motorbike crash, even for those not first aid trained.

1. Make the motorcycle accident scene safe

As the NHS states: “If someone is injured in an incident, first check that you and the casualty aren’t in any danger. If you are, make the situation safe.”

You won’t be much help to an injured rider if you get hurt yourself, so staying safe at the scene of a motorcycle accident is vital.

Traffic may still be passing the scene at speed, so be careful turning your back to oncoming traffic if you become distracted by the incident.

Ensuring that other road users are aware of the downed rider can be done in several ways, including:

  • Warning oncoming traffic yourself or someone else at the scene with you by using arm signals;
  • Putting on your hazard lights if in a vehicle yourself;
  • Putting out a warning triangle or cones you may have in your boot in case of a breakdown;
  • Putting on a high-visibility jacket;
  • Placing your vehicle in a position that offers the rider extra protection.

2. Stay calm and reassure the rider after a motorbike crash

The injured rider, whether on the ground or not, will be relying on you for help, so one of the best things you can do to help is stay calm.

If you start to panic at the scale of the motorcycle accident and are frantic, emotional, shouting or running around in a frenzy, this will not help you make the best possible decisions to ensure the rider gets treated as quickly as possible.

Take a second to ensure you have a clear head so that you can make decisions and help in a calm and composed manner – if you panic then the rider may do the same and cause further damage to themselves.

From this point, you will be in a position to speak clearly to the downed rider and reassure them about the situation.

First check if the injured biker is conscious by asking their name and age. If they are unconscious or mumbling their words then this suggests a more serious injury like a head injury or concussion.

Other things you should ask the rider are how they feel, what hurts and what they remember about the incident. Any information you can get from the rider will all help when you then come to provide a report of what has happened when you ring the emergency services.

When you come to make the 999 call, if there is no signal on your mobile then send someone to get help.

3. Only move a rider after a motorcycle accident if they are in further danger

Given the nature of motorcycle accidents, riders can often suffer head, neck or back injuries.

An injured rider should only be moved if they are in further danger. If you feel the motorbike crash scene is unsafe and the danger overrides the risk of further injury, move the rider and yourself – but think twice before doing so. Moving them unnecessarily could do more harm if they have, for example, a spinal fracture.

If the injured rider is standing when you find them, ask them to sit or lay down in a safe place. If they are already lying on the ground, place your hand on their chest to stop them from trying to get up and in doing so potentially cause themselves further harm.

It is often just a case of using your common sense as a rider with a broken arm may still be able to move to a safer place while they wait for medical assistance.

While you wait for the emergency services to arrive, there are ways of making the rider more comfortable without moving them – like providing shade or some form of cover on a hot day or when it is raining.

4. Only remove a rider’s helmet if it is essential

An injured rider’s helmet should not be removed unless it is essential, such as an airway obstruction if they are having difficulty breathing or have stopped breathing.

A rider may have a neck fracture and if you try to remove a helmet you would move the neck and potentially cause the fracture to move resulting in spinal cord damage and potential paralysis.

If a rider is screaming in pain, as awful as it may sound to hear it, they’re breathing and so leave the helmet on or encourage them to do so until the emergency services arrive.

If you do need to remove the helmet, this is a two-person job to gently remove it without jarring the head or neck.

5. Learn ABC to help after a motorcycle accident

When assessing an injured rider after a motorcycle accident, the three priorities are commonly referred to as ABC – which stands for airway, breathing, circulation.

Airway: Airway management needs to be done quickly. Make sure the tongue hasn’t fallen back into the throat obstructing the breathing. When checking the mouth also check for any liquid, loose or false teeth or anything else which may obstruct the airway by accident.

If the rider is responsive then leave them until help arrives while continuing to check their level of response, breathing and noting their pulse rate to see if it changes as you wait.

If they are unresponsive, the official NHS guidance states: “Leave the casualty in the position they’re in and open their airway. If this isn’t possible in the position they’re in, gently lay them on their back and open their airway.

“To open the airway, place one hand on the casualty’s forehead and gently tilt their head back, lifting the tip of the chin using two fingers.

“If you think the person may have a spinal injury, place your hands on either side of their head and use your fingertips to gently lift the angle of the jaw forward and upwards, without moving the head, to open the airway.

“Take care not to move the casualty’s neck. But opening the airway takes priority over a neck injury. This is known as the jaw thrust technique.”

Breathing: To check if a person is still breathing, look to see if their chest is rising and falling; listen over their mouth and nose for breathing sounds; and feel their breath against your cheek for 10 seconds.

Official guidance says: “If they’re breathing normally, place them in the recovery position so their airway remains clear of obstructions, and continue to monitor normal breathing.

“Gasping or irregular breathing is not normal breathing. If the casualty isn’t breathing, call 999 and then begin CPR.”

However, with a motorcycle accident we would still advise caution if there is a risk of neck injury. Someone might be breathing normally but you would not want to lay them in the recovery position if there is the possibility of a neck injury.

Circulation: To check a rider’s pulse, press your index finger and middle finger on the inside of their wrist or under the back of the jawline and count the number of beats in 30 seconds and double the amount to record beats per minute.

Getting trained up can help in the event of a motorbike crash

These basic steps will help if you ever come across an injured rider who has been involved in a motorcycle accident.

However, enrolling on a first aid training course will leave you far better prepared to deal with any injury situation in the future.

To find out more about first aid courses, visit St John Ambulance or British Red Cross online.

Becci Ashfield, a legal executive in the personal injury team here at Hudgell Solicitors, is using her passion for helping her clients and her work volunteering with the paraplegic riders in the Talan Racing motorcycle team to raise awareness of what to do if you are involved in a motorcycle accident. Read more here >>

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