What to Do if You Come Across a Bike Crash - Comments

Last week I posted on Greater Greater Washington about what to do if you come across a bike crash. Though I thought it was fairly thorough, the comments provided a fantastic appendix to the piece. The purpose of my piece was to inform potential bystanders to be aware of the needs of the situation and be conscious of any roles to play. Commenter SJE wrote with a proper hierarchy:

I agree it is important to take charge, and direct people. Most people don't know what to do. Important tasks:

1. Caring for victim 2. Collecting witness statements. Best to get via smart phone, so is verbatim and can be used in court 3. Ensure driver does not leave 4. Directing traffic 5. Calling for help and police, and relatives. 6. Looking after the broken bike.Another thing is not to focus on blood. People die all the time from internal injuries, including head injuries, that show little sign of outward bleeding. If bike or car is mangled, look more closely at the cyclist.

I personally believe everyone should take basic EMS courses: you WILL use it, and it could be your life that is saved.

I didn't collect witness statements but I did have a smart phone. I didn't want to seem too intrusive, but I should have been more aware of the needs of the victim and responders. It's equally important to ensure, in a bike-on-pedestrian crash, that the bicyclist doesn't leave. A victim of a bike hit-and-run is as much a victim as someone involved in a regular hit-and-run.

Marc pointed out that talking to the victim is equally important:

1. If you are first on the scene, don't just say "someone call 911". Instead, point to someone else and say "YOU - call 911". There have been occasions where no one called 911 because everyone else thought someone else was doing it.

2. While you're waiting for EMS to arrive, one very practical thing you can do is ask for the person's medical history. Do they have any medicine allergies? Are there any major preexisting conditions the EMT's should know about? Where specifically is the pain? Can they wiggle their fingers and toes? Stuff like that.

Keep in mind that someone could be conscious right after the crash but lapse into unconsciousness by the time the EMT's arrive, so better to get the information while you can.

Ms. D wrote in about the peril of identifying as a doctor or other medical professional:

Also, ask for help in a non-identifying way. I have several friends and family in the medical field, and they've all expressed that they're afraid to identify themselves for fear their position will void good samaritan laws (which are designed to protect non-professionals who try to help and fail or end up doing harm). They DO help, but they would never say "I'm a nurse/medical assistant/etc." While I have extensive first-aid/CPR/defibrillator training due to some previous jobs (not in the medical field) and don't normally ask for help in that regard (but rather offer my help), I'd recommend asking if anyone knows first aid rather than asking if anyone is a medical professional if you don't feel up to providing the assistance necessary.

She added that having an emergency kit is handy, even if you're a pedestrian or a biker:

My emergency kit, which fits in everything but my smallest clutch, is a mini-mag, sterile gauze, a pair of latex (could also be latex-free) gloves in a sealed baggie, and some alcohol wipes. A pen and small notepad is also useful if you find yourself in charge of collecting witness information, though, as noted, smart phones have excellent features (notepad, video camera, etc.) for this purpose, as well.

Lastly, Observer gave us an update on what actually happened:

I was standing next to the woman injured in this accident Thursday night. Yes, standing. Because she wasn't on a bike. In fact, when the light turned green for pedestrians she was hit (admittedly without looking) by a bicyclist who had run the light.

Second, in response to your twitter conversation with Ron Knox, she never lost consciousness. We did have a frustratingly hard time flagging down police cars to help protect us from traffic, but EMS arrived and the woman was able to walk to the ambulance by herself.

I hadn't been taking witness statements, but the combination of bike on the curb + woman on the ground meant bicyclist struck. A few side conversations I'd had about whether the driver was still there were met with an "I don't know", so it was an assumption on my part.