Five steps to take if there’s an accident on the road

Coming across an accident on the road isn’t something most of us are prepared for. So, if you ever find yourself in this difficult and sometimes traumatic situation, it’s important to know what to do, so you can spring into action immediately. Time is of the essence, particularly when human life is at risk.

1. Prepare in advance

The first step in preparing yourself for a road accident is making sure you have the right equipment to respond with. The first essential component for roadside assistance is a complete first aid kit. While this may be useful for you and the passengers in your car at some point, it becomes even more valuable at the scene of an accident.

Your first aid kit should ideally be in a waterproof container and stored in an area of your car that remains cool, as sunlight and heat can degrade some first aid products. Check your car first aid kit regularly and replace items that have expired or are running low.

St John offers clinically approved vehicle first aid kits of various sizes, or you can search online for the key components and create your own.

A fire extinguisher is another important product to keep in your car in case you come across a road accident where fire is involved. A high visibility vest or jacket, or warning sign, is also important in case you break down on the side of the road. They are also useful to warn vehicles approaching the scene of an accident.

2. Assess the scene

If you come across an accident on the road, slow down and approach it carefully. It’s a good idea to park a safe distance away from the accident area, so you don’t get in the way of passing traffic or take up room that emergency services might need when they arrive. If there are other bystanders at the scene and the accident is in a busy area – like a highway or main road – ask someone to guide the traffic carefully around the accident site.

3. See if anyone’s hurt

Once approaching traffic is being safely redirected, the next step is to check that everyone involved in the accident is safe and uninjured. If anyone is hurt, you may need to apply first aid if you have the appropriate skills. If you don’t, you can ask if other bystanders have first aid training.

First aid training is good to have. Both the New Zealand Red Cross and St John offer first aid courses.

4. Call 111

For serious injuries, a 111 operator can talk you through what to do while you wait for emergency services to arrive.

If there are other bystanders at the scene, get someone else to call 111 while you check on those involved. If you’re by yourself, check on everyone involved in the accident first before calling 111, so you can give them specific information about what’s happened and the nature of the injuries.

Ask for an ambulance as well as police if someone has been injured, which is frequently the case in a car accident.

Always inform the emergency call handler of the accident’s location first, so they can dispatch the emergency services needed immediately, while you’re giving them the rest of the details. Tell them how many people are hurt and the extent of their injuries, as well as the number of people and vehicles involved in the accident.

5. Don’t leave the scene

Even if no one has been injured in the accident, don’t leave the scene until the police arrive. You’ll need to give them your details and any comments you have about the accident before you leave. They’ll follow up at a later date if they need any further information from you. You can always reach out to emergency services afterwards if you remember something important.