A Crash Course for the Motorcyclist: Accident Scene Management

You ride a motorcycle, probably with other motorcyclists. While riding, you constantly scan for hazards to avoid problems before they happen. Still, accidents can happen: a deer leaps suddenly into a rider’s path, a distracted driver drifts into a rider’s lane or a rider enters a curve too fast and goes down.

For discussion, assume an accident involved members of your riding group. Who’d be first on the scene? Probably you. In effect, you’d be a first responder. But even if you’re not a professional first responder, like a paramedic or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), you could prevent further injury, set the Emergency Medical System (EMS) in motion and help treat the injured until professional help arrives. With the right training, you could do this.

ASM instructor Kathleen Bridgewater describes the two-person method for removing a full-face helmet from a victim who is not breathing. (Photos: the author and Maryalice Breninger)
ASM instructor Kathleen Bridgewater describes the two-person method for removing a full-face helmet from a victim who is not breathing. (Photos: the author and Maryalice Breninger)

Accident Scene Management, Inc. (ASM) is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to reducing injuries and fatalities to motorcyclists through first response education. It’s the only accredited, non-profit bystander program in the U.S. In “A Crash Course for the Motorcyclist,” you learn basic skills to address the first five to 20 minutes at an accident scene. In “Advanced Bystander Assistance,” an extension of the basic program, you learn the skills to be a leader at the scene and
assist the EMS.

The Florham Park Memorial First Aid Squad is an all-volunteer outfit. EMR Russell Breninger is shown on his Triumph Rocket III. It's not an ambulance, but the tail bag is one of the best-equipped medical rescue bags you'll ever see.
The Florham Park Memorial First Aid Squad is an all-volunteer outfit. EMR Russell Breninger is shown on his Triumph Rocket III. It’s not an ambulance, but the tail bag is one of the best-equipped medical rescue bags you’ll ever see.

Registered nurse (RN), EMT and motorcycle rider Vicki Roberts-Sanfelipo created these courses. I attended a two-day, two-course ASM certification program in Florham Park, New Jersey, hosted by Russell and MaryAlice Breninger, both veteran riders and Emergency Medical Responders (EMR) with the all-volunteer Florham Park Memorial First Aid Squad.

These aren’t motorcycle safety courses. They’re not about preventing injuries (except to yourself as a rescuer). They’re not first aid courses, although students do learn ways to treat and stabilize victims until professional help arrives. Rather, through classroom instruction and hands-on exercises, I learned what to do at an accident scene. The overall approach is easy to remember, using the acronym PACT:

P = Prevent further injury

A = Assess the situation

C = Call the EMS

T = Treat the injured

Your humble scribe practices putting a victim's leg in a "kickstand" to help him stay in the "puke and drool" position.
Your humble scribe practices putting a victim’s leg in a “kickstand” to help him stay in the “puke and drool” position.

About three dozen students, mostly riders, assembled in the squad’s training room on a Saturday morning. A few professional first responders were there, too, earning continuing education credits by learning specifics of accident scene management where motorcycle riders are involved.

We learned that preventing further injury could be as simple as keeping space open for emergency vehicles. It could involve alerting motorists and directing traffic clear of the injured. It could require moving an injured rider away from a bike that’s on top of them, on fire or at risk of igniting, or leaking hazardous fluids.

Next, we learned to assess the situation. Where are you? What’s happening? How many people are involved? How severe are the injuries? What types of vehicles are involved? How many?

Instructor Jeff West, an EMR and motorcyclist, discussed the all-important 911 call. “The EMS dispatcher will want the information that you’ve been collecting in your assessment, which helps determine what personnel and equipment to send, whether mutual aid is required and more.” West emphasized that you should never end a 911 call; let the dispatcher end the call.

Not every rider in the group had experience with a flip-up, modular helmet. Here ASM instructors Jeff West and Kathleen Bridgewater describe how these helmets work to help us realize that they might not need to come off to provide breathing assistance.
Not every rider in the group had experience with a flip-up, modular helmet. Here ASM instructors Jeff West and Kathleen Bridgewater describe how these helmets work to help us realize that they might not need to come off to provide breathing assistance.

Instructor Kathleen Bridgewater, an RN and motorcyclist, discussed the importance of calming an accident victim until professional help arrives. “Stay with them and talk to them. Tell them your name and ask them theirs. Reassure them that you’re there to help. Make conversation that also provides information. Can you move your leg OK? When was the last time you had something to eat or drink? Do you have any allergies? Are you taking any medications? Is there someone we can notify?” It helps to have someone write down the answers so first responders can evaluate how a victim’s condition may have changed.

When professional emergency responders do arrive, don’t leave. “They need information you have,” said Bridgewater. “You also may be helpful in moving victims or keeping onlookers at a distance. EMS pros appreciate the help that a knowledgeable bystander can provide. If you’re certified in bystander assistance, you can do more to help than just get out of the way.”

After two full days, course participants show off their certificates.
After two full days, course participants show off their certificates.

For me, the most valuable course components were the hands-on exercises. In one of many, we learned and practiced the proper technique for removing a full-face helmet from a victim. Maybe you thought the rule was “never remove a helmet” (I did), but there’s an exception: when a victim is not breathing and the helmet obstructs breathing assistance. Someone who’s not breathing will soon die, so knowing how to remove their helmet quickly while minimizing spinal cord movement could save their life. (We learned about Good Samaritan laws, too.)

Twenty days after I got certified, I had occasion to use the skills I learned. Find out more at accidentscene.org.

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