If You Witness a Car Accident, Here’s What to Do to Help the Victim(s)

What you think is right to do in a car accident may not actually be what’s best. Everyone should know how to respond to these situations for the safety of everyone involved, including yourself. Here are a few things you can do to help a victim of a car accident if you witness one.

Call 911

You need to call emergency services so they can send an ambulance. You might think you’re doing the victim a service by calling an Uber or Lyft for cheaper transport (as some people advise due to high ambulance fees), but ambulances are uniquely equipped for emergency situations and arrive faster, which can save lives. They can always have a lawyer sort out the bill with insurance later.

Don’t Direct Traffic Around the Crash

Though you may feel a need to direct traffic around the crash, don’t do it. It’s dangerous even for emergency personnel to do and should be handled only by the police, who have the proper training to do so. Otherwise, you could seriously injure yourself. Stay as far away as you can from oncoming cars. Put your hazard lights on if possible to warn other vehicles to stay away from the crash site and move your car out of the way of traffic if possible. 

Do Not Move the Victim

Trying to move someone who’s been in an accident can make their injuries worse. Even if you don’t see any visible injuries, they may have spinal injuries. You may stand close to them and say comforting words until emergency personnel arrives if they are distressed. Let them know help is on the way and remind them to not move because it can make their injuries worse. Dangerous situations in which you should move a victim out of harm’s way are: 

  • Risk of explosion
  • Risk of a structure collapsing on top of them 
  • If they’re in need of CPR and not on a flat surface

In emergency situations where you need to move an injured person, carefully cradle their head with your forearms and gently drag them by the top of their shirt. Drag them in a straight line. You don’t want to twist or bend them.

Perform CPR if Necessary

Check the victim for a pulse and whether or not they are breathing. You don’t need to perform CPR if they have a pulse or they are breathing. Whenever you’re unsure of what to do in an emergency situation, ask a 911 operator. If you need to give CPR to the victim, stop when they show signs of life like movement or breathing.

Knowing what to do when you witness a car accident makes the situation less stressful and can save a life. Remember to never move a victim unless it’s absolutely necessary to protect them from additional injuries or death. Don’t let others on the scene move the victim either since some people don’t know that it can make things worse.