After The Accident (short version)

After The Accident

It seems like whenever the subject of motorcycles is discussed it frequently turns to motorcycle accidents. Injuries are typically more severe from a motorcycle than in a car. We must each make the personal decision how much risk is acceptable. 40% of Bayflite 4’s air transports for May were for motorcyclist injuries making it the highest category of transports.

Before we discuss what to do after the accident, we need to discuss a few things about before the accident. Talk with your insurance agent about your coverage. Ambulance bills run up to $700 plus mileage. Air evacuation up to $25,000. Then you have the ER, surgeons, x-rays, CT, MRI, medications, blood transfusions and other procedures to save your life and limb. You may be under-insured.

It would also be a great idea to take a first aid/CPR class to be prepared. If you take the classes and never need it, great. If you need it and don’t know what to do…

Protective riding gear is in my opinion a necessity. I am sure you are familiar with the acronym A.T.G.A.T.T. which stands for All The Gear All The Time. The phrases, “dress for the crash, not for the ride” and “it is better to sweat than to bleed” should also be familiar. As an experienced paramedic I can attest that proper safety gear makes a difference.

I strongly advocate for a full face helmet. Anything less leaves critical areas of the head exposed. I have witnessed severe injuries that would have been prevented by a full face helmet. Half face helmets, while a step in the right direction, still leave portions of the head exposed to impact.

Quality gloves are another necessity. It is instinct to reach out to protect yourself. How long will you be out of work while you recoup from the surgery needed to graft skin back on after your hands and fingers were ground away? Don’t get cheap and buy the automotive gloves at the auto parts store either. Look for something with reinforced leather at minimum.

A riding jacket and riding pants may be hot here in Florida, but blue jeans and clothing do not hold up to the friction of the road. I have transported riders who suffered severe injuries where the asphalt ground away the flesh until what was exposed amounted to an anatomy lesson. Those injuries were preventable. A few hundred dollars for a jacket and a few hundred dollars for the pants versus the multiple thousands of dollars for surgery not to mention lost work, pain suffered, and lost time. It seems like an easy answer to me.

Your feet need protection too. Injuries from the pegs, chain, and sprocket as well as from the road itself can be horrific. A quality riding boot can be the difference between a bruised foot and something much worse.

Proper eye protection is the only piece of safety equipment mandated by Florida law (Florida Statute 316.211) regardless of age or what insurance you carry. Windshields on the bike don’t count. How can you be in control if you can’t see? Wear your eye protection.

The last piece of safety gear sits between your ears. If you are not in the right frame of mind, sit the ride out. You need to be able to focus. Riding while high or intoxicated is just downright stupid. The Florida Motorcycle Handbook even states, “Injuries occur in 90% of motorcycle crashes… that involve abuse of substances”. Don’t ride on the same road as me if you are going to be high or drunk.

Gear won’t make a rider bullet proof and it is still possible to receive severe injuries. It comes back to a balance of what is acceptable risk to you.

When a member of your riding group is involved in an accident there are some immediate concerns. The first one is for yourself. If you get injured attempting to help then you can’t call 911 or render aid. If your injuries are worse than your friend’s, he has to wait for the second ambulance. You get the first one. Your own safety is number one. The safety of other bystanders is number two. Your first goal is to not make more victims. In this case the typical hazard is traffic. Our large fire engines routinely get hit at accident scenes. If drivers don’t see our trucks then they are not going to see you.

The second issue to be concerned with is “B.S.I.” or Body Substance Isolation. If it is wet and it isn’t yours, don’t touch it. Wear latex or vinyl gloves to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogens such as H.I.V. and hepatitis B & C. Medical gloves can be picked up at almost any drug store like CVS or Walgreens. They also conveniently double as hand protection to keep grease and oil off your hands when working on your bike. Other than your hands, you also need to protect your eyes from splashes of blood as pathogens can infect you through that route as well. The good news is that your sunglasses will work just fine. Just remember to wash them well afterward though.

The next step is to call 911 yourself. Don’t shout for someone else to do it. Stay on the line and answer all their questions. An ambulance is sent as soon as the caller identifies one is needed and where it is needed. Further information is relayed to the ambulance while it is on the way. The dispatcher will also walk you through basic steps you can take to help the victim.

While this is not a substitute for training there are certain situations you can expect in most accidents. The first is that a back injury will be assumed on nearly all motorcycle accidents. DO NOT MOVE THE VICTIM if at all possible. Doing so may cause paralysis or death. The only time it may be acceptable to move a victim is when there is IMMINENT danger of death. If a victim is going to be killed from being run over it is better to risk their spine than allow them to die. Another instance is if they are not breathing and you need to perform CPR and they are face down. Roll them over keeping their head in line with their body. This is a two or three person procedure. One holds the head in line while the rest roll the victim over. Refer to the Good Samaritan laws under Florida Statute 768.13.

Head injuries are very common. A victim may be confused, combative, or unresponsive, and their breathing may be labored and irregular. Call 911 immediately. If they have a helmet on, do not remove it. There is proper technique for removing it as well as equipment that EMS will apply to stabilize the head, neck, and back. Removing the helmet can manipulate the portion of the spine that controls breathing and heart function. You could also needlessly paralyze someone for life. My advice is DON’T DO IT. Instead hold that person’s head in the position found or if they are moving around, in the neutral position facing forward. You may need to remind them many times not to move.

CPR is another topic that comes up when discussing these types of accidents. The reality is that less that 1% of trauma victims survive if they code. With that in mind there are still good reasons to attempt CPR. This article is not able to replace CPR training so I am not going to expound on it here. Please take a certified class if you want to learn CPR.

You may have a victim with severe bleeding. In that case start with a dressing made of a rag, a shirt, or dressings from your first aid kit and apply pressure directly over the wound. Do not remove the dressing if it gets soaked, add more. The next step is to elevate the site of bleeding using gravity to reduce the blood pressure at the site. Lastly, apply pressure to the artery supplying blood by pressing a flat hand on the artery against the bone. A good first aid class will identify those sites.

Broken bones typically will not need splinting by a bystander. EMS response time is around seven minutes in a city and 15 to 20 minutes in rural areas. All you need to do is manually support the broken limb still and in the position found. Do not attempt to straighten it as the sharp edges of the bone can cut blood vessels or nerves. Leave it to the arriving paramedics to deal with.

Even when the emergency vehicles arrive your job is not done. Don’t stop doing whatever you were doing until asked to do so. It takes time to set up emergency equipment. Answer all the questions that you can. It would be a good idea for you and every one in your group to have emergency information printed out and placed in your wallets.

Lastly, do not rush to the hospital. Ride calmly and in control. There is usually a minimum of a 30 minute wait for minor injuries and hours waiting on surgery for more serious injuries.

I hope I don’t meet any of you in my professional capacity. Ride safely, wear your gear, and enjoy your ride.

Chris Harbig        352-279-1991   

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