Being in an accident is something we all do our best to prevent, but it is far less easy to take precautions against inadvertently becoming part of one. Bearing witness to or being the first to arrive at an accident scene can be as traumatic as being involved one’s self, as it is not always easy to know how best to help in cases where victims have experienced trauma.

In some cases, our natural instinct to help those in pain is overridden by a fear of doing something wrong or perhaps accidentally making things worse, leaving many accident witnesses feeling helpless or paralysed with fear.

While the majority of us are not able to provide much in the way of medical assistance, there are a few key actions we can all take in the event of an accident to assist those in need.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind should you find yourself in this unenviable situation:

Provide reassurance

If the victim is conscious and responsive, your first step is to provide comfort and reassurance. Assure them that help is on its way and that you are there to assist until the professionals arrive. It is also important that you do your best to keep them immobile, as excess movement can end up worsening their injuries.

Ask for consent

Before providing any type of assistance, it is vital that you acquire consent from the victim. There are three types of consent, namely: informed consent, expressed permission and implied consent. In cases where the victim is lucid and able to speak, they must provide verbal consent for you to assist them, whereas expressed permission is given by signalling in the affirmative (in cases where the person in question is unable to speak). If the victim is unconscious and there are no family members or friends present at the scene, consent is considered implied and you should immediately do your best to assist.

Top up on information

If possible, try your best to get as much medical information from the victim as possible, as this will help paramedics to treat them more swiftly and effectively. It is wise to ask whether the victim has any medical history that could be beneficial for paramedics to know, and ascertain whether there are any allergies or medications they are taking, which could influence treatment. If you are able, try to establish the cause of the accident, and get an idea of the signs and symptoms they might be experiencing.  The more information you can give paramedics upon arrival, the quicker they can begin to administer treatment.

Where possible, try your best to verify information via documents like IDs or drivers’ licenses, as this will also greatly assist paramedics, who will ultimately need proof of identity.

Play detective

When confronted with more challenging scenes in which the victim is unconscious and unaccompanied, your first step should be to try to find some type of identification, in the form of a bag, wallet, medical bracelet or driver’s license. Should this be unsuccessful, try to retrieve the victim’s phone, and call someone on their contact list to acquire the necessary medical information.

Don’t play doctor

While you might have watched hundreds of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, this does not mean you are qualified to provide treatment to someone in need of serious help. Unless you have undergone first aid training, your best bet is to call emergency services and do your best to keep the victim calm and still until they arrive.

Stay safe

Chances are, you might be confronted with a scene involving an intoxicated victim, in which case you might be putting yourself in peril. Inebriated accident victims can be violent and the situation can become complicated should you try to involve yourself. Remember, while your natural instinct will be to provide help, it is always important to protect yourself first. Should you suspect that the victim in question is under the influence, rather call law enforcement and await their arrival.

By Nthabiseng Moloi, MiWay Head of Marketing & Brand