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Road Traffic Collisions


Safety First - Road Traffic Collisions


Road Traffic Collisions (RTC’s) come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one characteristic in common. They all dangerous, dynamic places to be!

Name 10 common hazards found at the site of a vehicular collision? Answers at the end.

The scene of a road traffic collision is a very dynamic, unfamiliar and hostile environment. Your number one priority, as always, is to protect yourself and the group traveling with you, and only then, any casualties.

Invest in a European Travel Motoring Kit. In 2016 theses start at about £20, but buy extra hi-viz tabards so that there is one per person in the car. This is a legal requirement for traveling in many European countries and makes perfect sense.

The hi-viz tabard is not a super-man outfit, you are still very, very vulnerable on an active road, so always exercise extreme caution and be vigilant at all times.

The warning triangle from your European Travel Motoring Kit should be placed on a single carriageway road, at about 45m from the scene of the accident on the same side of the road as the stranded vehicle. A warning triangle is no guarantee that other drivers will behave rationally. Some will try and weave their way through, not wanting to be late! Always be vigilant.

If you find yourself in lane 1 of a dual carriageway, or the hard shoulder of a motorway, and the carriageway is still live (i.e. it still has vehicles driving past) then the sequence of actions required by yourselves to keep safe is:


  • Switch your engine off.
  • Put your sidelights on.
  • Put on your hazard warning lights
  • Exit by the doors closest to safety, away from where the traffic is.
  • Everybody wears a hi-viz tabard.
  • The safest place to wait for the emergency service is up the grass bank, well away from the vehicles. If there is no grass bank, if it’s a ditch, then go about 20m ahead of the vehicles but keep an eye on live traffic. Never stand between your vehicle and oncoming traffic.
  • Phone for the emergency services.


Have you noticed that there was no instruction about the warning triangle? RTC’s on dual carriageways and motorways are so dangerous, your priority is to get yourself and your passengers safe. Don’t risk placing a warning triangle in these situations. To call for the emergency services from a motorway, it is best to use the orange emergency phones located at mile intervals along the carriageway. The advantage of these is that the control room can then pinpoint your location, and which carriageway you are on.


The Scene


The scene of a Road Traffic Collision is a crime scene until proven otherwise. Your evidence is important to the police and the ambulance service.

If you witnessed the accident, the information you can give will help the emergency services build a picture of what happened, the energy involved, and the pattern of injury to suspect.


Common things we look for include:


  • What hazards are present? Is it safe to approach?
  • Where did the collision start and where did it stop?
  • What parts of each car have crumpled? A side impact will usually create worse injuries.
  • Has the vehicle rolled over and back onto all four wheels?
  • Have any windows been knocked out (passenger possibly ejected)?
  • What airbags have gone off?
  • Is the front windscreen intact or does it have a ‘bulls-eye’ from being head-butted?


The Unconscious Occupant


If an occupant is slumped unconscious in a car then this is an emergency situation. Being slumped forward reduces the size of the patient’s airway. The tongue becomes floppy and will restrict the airway even more. If you cannot see the chest rise and fall, or if it is noisy like snoring, then this is a priority and needs correcting as soon as possible.

The easiest way to open the airway is to get into the car if it is safe to do so, sit behind the occupant, and then with one hand on either side of the head, palm on the cheek, your thumbs cupped under the ears, bring the patient back upright so that the head is resting against the headrest. You can now rest your forearms on the seat to make it less strenuous.

If you cannot get behind the casualty, you will have to do your best from the side, use one hand on the forehead, and fingers of the other hand on the tip of the chin. NEVER put yourself between the patient and an airbag that did not go off. It could be doubly fatal!


Boats fallen from a roofrack!

I was once in a car when the roofrack disintegrated whilst we were travelling at 70 mph on the motorway. Thankfully the two boats bounced along the carriageway at about 70mph, finally coming to rest in the central reservation, and thankfully without causing an accident.

We pulled over onto the hard shoulder, as soon and as safely as we could, and stopped at the first emergency phone. We picked up the handset and told the operator the nature of our emergency. Although the boats were temporarily safe in the central reservation, a draught from a vehicle could have changed all that.

Using the emergency roadside phone means the Highways Agency and the police know the exact location of the incident. This is preferable to you using a mobile phone.

The police arrived shortly and retrieved the boats. Never attempt this yourself.

Remember, Stay safe.


Further Viewing and Reading


The Highway Code!




If there are four things I want you to take away from this article and two actions to commit to, they are:


1.    Stay safe, RTC’s are dangerous dynamic environments, take extreme care.
2.    Review your knowledge of the Highway Code.
3.    Buy a European Travel Motoring Kit and enough tabards for the number of passengers.
4.    Always wear a seatbelt.


Answers to the common hazards at the scene of an RTC


1.    Broken glass.
2.    Sharp metal.
3.    Spilled fuel (fire/slip hazard).
4.    Spilled oil (slip hazard).
5.    Powder from a discharged airbag
6.    Other vehicles still moving.
7.    Other distressed or angry passengers.
8.    Blood.
9.    Airbags that have not gone off.
10.    Fire.
11.    Unstable vehicle that may move.
12.    Unstable surroundings, what has the vehicle crashed into.
13.    Uneven ground, trip hazard.

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