What To Do When You Come Across A Motorcycle Accident

Riding a motorcycle has a lot of perks. It’s liberating to lane filter past rows of cars stopped at traffic lights, you can easily find parking for your bike on the street and riding is just fun in itself. But motorcyclists have very little protection if they are unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash. We have some pointers on what you can do to help if you do come across a motorcycle accident.

Motorcyclist falls off bike image from Shutterstock

I’ve had two minor motorcycle accidents already and I’ve only been riding for just over a year. A good friend of mine has had seven in the 15 years he’s been a motorcyclist. Two weeks’ ago, my boyfriend totalled his bike after a Ute driver made a turn from the middle lane. There was impact and he went flying into the tray of the Ute, but it could have been far worse.

I could go on and on about all the people I know who have had accidents and close calls on a motorcycle. It’d be tempting to blame car drivers for being careless (which they often are) but I’ve also seen some reckless motorcycle riding on the roads. Whatever the reason, motorcycle accidents are becoming more common.

So what do you do if you come across a motorcycle accident? Well, let’s hope you’re not stricken by the bystander effect and choose to do nothing. First Aid for Motorcyclists has a recommendation of the top five things to do at an accident scene:

  • Assess the scene It can be shocking to see an accident so take a moment to calm down and assess the accident scene. Make sure there are no sources of danger to yourself and others.

  • Get a response Find out if the motorcyclist is conscious and responsive. If they are conscious and can string full sentences together, ask them to remain still and reassure them that help will be on its way. Do not remove the helmet unless the motorcyclist is not breathing.

  • Get help Call 000 for help as soon as you can.

  • Manage the casualty If the motorcyclist is unconscious and breathing, roll them into the recovery position. Look for signs of injury and manage them to the best of your abilities. If they are not breathing, take the helmet off, clear the airway and start CPR if you know how to do so. Here’s a video which provides a little more detail about performing first aid for injured motorcyclists:

  • Manage the scene Stay alert and try to direct bystanders and passing traffic away from the scene of the accident.
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Comments

    I’ve had two minor motorcycle accidents already and I’ve only been riding for just over a year. A good friend of mine has had seven in the 15 years he’s been a motorcyclist.

    I can't understand this. There is something inherent that both of you are doing wrong. I am an aggressive rider, riding for 10 years and have never had an accident. I expect people to try and kill me so I am ready for them to kill me.

      First accident: Lady backed her car into me while I was waiting for a pump at the petrol station.
      Second accident: I was waiting to turn onto a road and driver who was looking at the traffic and not me rear-ended my bike.

      Don't think I've done anything wrong so far?

        Hey spandas,
        As a paramedic in Aus , I can't stress enough *not* to take the helmet off under any circumstance. There's a certain technique to take it off without causing spinal injury. If they can take it off themselves that's cool. But don't let anyone else do it. If they have no pulse and CPR is needed , just do chest compressions. The airway part of CPR never works without proper equipment anyway.
        Thanks for the article though, very good ! Good luck with your riding.

          Thanks for this! It would be great to get in touch with you for more details about treating people who are involved in motor accidents. Would you be able to get in contact with me via email?

          Cheers!

            Hi Spandas,
            In Western Australia, a collective group of experts with backgrounds that include Paramedic, Police and Combat Medic founded Rider Down (www.RiderDown.com.au). This program goes well beyond your typical First Aid techniques and deals directly with the typical injuries encountered by the Rider Down. We analysed available statistical data and we know what it is that we need to be teaching. Contact us anytime at:
            www.RiderDown.com.au / https://www.facebook.com/RiderDownTraining / [email protected]

      Same. I've had my licence for 15 years with no accident. I have 3 other friends who also ride and 2 of them had licences way longer than I and not one of us has had any accident on a bike.

      I rode for many years, but the only accident I had was basically my fault in the first year my bike slipped out from under me when took a corner with gravel all over it. I consider myself lucky, because there were many occasions I could have easily died because some idiot just wasn't paying attention. I think a lot of the time it's just luck, not skill.

      Last edited 23/10/15 12:28 pm

      I'm very much of the ideology with their are those who've crashed and those that are yet too. Which is why I'm so attentive when out riding.
      As to if it's your fault or not is a non issue. I've seen plenty of accidents that have been of no fault of the rider and no amount of advance riding courses would have helped fix.

      I once had to deal with an accident in Taiwan, when ten of us had just started a mountain attack and a guy came off. Out of the ten of us I was the only one smart enough to pack a med kit. Granted the guy broke his ankle, smashed his knee then got run over by the guy in front of me fracturing his hip and lacerating his stomach. Guy spent 3 months in rehab. Not to mention we all had our cameras on so had all kinds of footage for the police to go through. Boy was that a fun day.

    Removing the helmet is risky, particularly if the rider isn't conscious. It needs to be done very carefully, preferable with two people, and supporting the neck and head properly. If there are spinal injuries, more damage may be done.

      I strongly recommend NOT removing helmets.

      You may be traumatized by just how much head comes away with the helmet. In at least one case experienced by a friend of mine... all of it came away.

        You must remove a helmet if they are not breathing: alive with spinal injury > dead but intact spinal cord

          Do you mean not breathing but DO have a heartbeat in which case you would assume airway blockage? I wonder if @lemontang the paramedic can point us to some official advice.

          What I was talking about by the way was avoiding psychological trauma. Like removing a helmet only to have the head come off. It happens. Or has at least once.

            Not an official paramedic (though 1st aid certified)...unless we're talking about me being the medic in a number of PC games. The number one thing is to keep them stationary however, and never remove the helmet unless the injured party has demonstrated that it is ok to do so (even then, ensure the neck is supported, such as with folded up newspaper or jacket).

            In the instance I was attending the injured person was trying to remove their own helmet. We had to restrain him from doing so as he was moving his head around violently (good indicator) and that his injuries were from his waist down. Even then only when everything else was stabilised did we do so.

    Thanks for this! I was thinking last week that you'd promised to write articles about motorcycles in your intro and I was thinking about getting in touch about not having seen any yet.

    Regarding the comments about "what you must be doing wrong", this reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend (both of us ride). I'd had an accident on my motorcycle back when I was still on my L plate (entirely my fault). The guy that I had working on my bike has a saying; "it's only got two wheels, it's bound to fall over eventually". My friend was appalled by this, he said it's an abdication of personal responsibility and that if you ride properly there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to avoid any accident. I said to him that if he honestly believed that he was that statistical anomaly that would never have an accident in his riding career, then good on him, and I hoped it worked out that way.

    He went on to have two very serious accidents (he and his bike are both ok now), one of which was entirely his fault, the other was entirely not his fault (although could theoretically have been avoided).

    I think the point is that accidents happen, and as motorcycle riders we need to be more vigilant as we are more exposed (which is the point of the article). But if you honestly believe that you have sufficient skill and control over the entire road to avoid any accident ever, then you're setting yourself up for a very painful disappointment.

    Never remove the helmet! You don't know what spinal cord injury that person may have and the act of removing the helmet can kill them. The most you should ever do is to lift the visor so they can get air.

      The instructions posted were "If they are not breathing, take the helmet off, clear the airway and start CPR...".

      The helmet should remain on until someone skilled in safe removal arrives IF the patient is breathing or you know help is close. However, if they aren't breathing, there is little point in being able to tell someone "Well they died, but their spinal-cord had no further damage done to it".

      A lot of helmets used (open-face or modular) allow some form of CPR or the clearing of airways to occur without helmet removal, but full-face helmets, you don't have much choice.

      That all said, there is the more modern school of thought that only chest compression is needed, not the breathing. But this only applies if an ambulance is close.

        Last few years of CPR have been about chest-compression only, yeah. No matter the scenario - ambulance proximity or not. Training I did most recently actually cited an example of a hiker kept alive by his mates performing compressions in shifts, non-stop, for over a day. The simple act of pushing on the chest to force the heart to pump should simultaneously pump the lungs much the same as squeezing a platic coke bottle and having it snap back, pulling air into it.

        The only time this is a problem is when the airway obviously isn't clear, thanks to vomit or blood or potentially foreign bodies or severed tongue.

    When I ride, I just presume all other drivers are trying their best to kill me so I approach slowly and keep a decent distance.

    If there's a fool on the phone or driving carelessly (drunk / agro), I either back away or jump past them and give me self a good distance.

    Daily commuter on the Monash FWY in Melbourne reporting in.

    Constantly try to remain vigilant, instructor told me its not a matter if, its when.

    See people doing their make up, eating their breakfast, heads down on their phones at speed daily. Craziest I saw was a guy playing with a Rubix cube at 100ks.

    Worst people are the ones that try to block me or swerve at me when I try to pass while filtering.

    Last edited 23/10/15 3:16 pm

      If you ride enough, eventually nothing will surprise you. People reading books, newspapers, reports from the office. Completely oblivious to whats going on around them.

      Even with 120w of LED lights in their mirror, I can sit behind a driver for 15-minutes before they even bother to look to their sides or into a mirror.

        That is exactly my justification for buying a huge pipe for those headers.

        If they cannot see me, they'll at least hear me.

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