A downed rider’s first concern is usually for his bike. Adrenaline can mask injuries, so e
You always wear a helmet, an armored jacket and pants, and gloves when you ride, so you’re ready if the worst happens. But if disaster strikes someone else, what do you do next? You could be miles from help, tending a badly injured buddy who needs medical attention, stat. Throw in traffic approaching the scene around a blind corner and you have the perfect recipe for a disaster two-fer. Knowing what to do next is the difference between a successful outcome and a day you’d like to forget.
Preparation is key, and the Red Cross website (www.redcross.org) lists community chapters where you can sign up for low-cost first-aid and CPR classes. If you usually ride with a group, take a class together. It’s no good if the one rider at the accident scene trained in CPR is the one flat on his back.
If the crash takes place ahead of you, slow down and motion to following traffic that there’s something wrong ahead. If your riding buddy vanishes in a cloud of dust in your mirror, don’t make an immediate U-turn to backtrack before you make sure it’s safe to do so. If more than one of you is still upright, send someone back up the road to warn oncoming traffic to slow down.
Your next task is to assess whether the downed rider needs help. If there’s the slightest doubt about the rider’s injuries, call for help immediately; make this decision as quickly as you can. The point of on-scene first aid is to stabilize the victim until professional help arrives. Every member of your riding group should carry a cell phone or SPOT device so you can connect with the 911 system and call for help. Then word of the accident can go up and down the road.
As a first responder to an incident, your job is simple: Stabilize the victim and secure t
If the victim isn’t breathing, everything else is a secondary problem, because he (or she) will be dead in four minutes. Even if you suspect spinal injury, carefully take off the helmet. Ideally, one person supports the neck while another pulls the helmet straps apart and gently removes the helmet. Next, check the victim’s ABCs––airway, breathing, and circulation. Make sure the airway is clear. Then check for breathing by putting your hand or cheek near his or her mouth to feel for air going in or out. If there is no breathing, you can begin rescue breathing (mouth to mouth), though the American Heart Association has determined that rescue breathing is not nearly as important as chest compressions.
It can be difficult to determine if there is a pulse, so instead attempt to rouse your fellow rider. If he doesn’t respond, then start external compressions. (Use the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” as your rhythm.) Continue these until paramedics arrive. If the accident victim is awake, engage him in conversation to determine where the injuries are.
Bleeding calls for immediate action. Put direct pressure on the wound to stop the blood and get it coagulating. Broken bones are often best treated on the scene by leaving them alone, but in the case of a compound fracture where the bone pokes out through the skin, cut away the clothing and do what you can to stop the bleeding. Badly broken arms and legs are pretty easy to diagnose, but sometimes fractures can be difficult to identify. Immobilize any painful extremity and avoid unnecessary movement. A tight neck or a sore back might indicate a more severe injury. If you can get some ice, apply it to the suspected injury site to minimize the swelling and have the rider lie down until the ambulance shows up.
While road rash is the most common injury sustained in a crash, more serious injuries can result in shock. Symptoms include glazed eyes, ashen skin, and a clammy feeling, even on a hot day. Keep the victim calm and lying down if possible. Sitting up or standing will make the symptoms of shock more severe and could result in the rider passing out. Try to restore body temperature to normal, either by providing shade or creating warmth.
At least one rider should carry a basic first-aid kit that contains gauze bandages, a CPR mask for giving rescue breathing without skin contact, latex gloves, alcohol pads, and adhesive tape. Kits are available at drug stores, sporting-goods stores, and from motorcycle accessory companies. Upgrade a basic kit with a space blanket for shock victims, antimicrobial hand wipes, an assortment of adhesive bandages, large-area gauze pads, scissors, pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen, and a flashlight that can be used to look in a victim’s mouth if you suspect an airway obstruction. Also, have water on hand to rinse wounds and treat dehydration.
The best way to avoid roadside emergencies is to not have an accident in the first place. In addition to learning first-aid and packing a first-aid kit, keep your riding skills sharp with MSF courses and track schools. Also, learn to recognize those days when you’re not feeling your best, and either slow down, or stay off the bike.