How to Assess an Accident Scene

Updated November 21, 2016

On average, more than six million motor vehicle accidents occur in the United States every year. With such a staggering number, drivers should be prepared to help in case they are involved in, or witness to, a crash. First and foremost, safety of the accident victims and bystanders depends on the ability of someone to assess a scene. By taking stock of what has happened, you will be able to ensure that victims receive quick access to professional care and reduce the risk of others becoming injured due to ongoing hazards.

Scan the area surrounding the accident scene to look for any ongoing danger. Look for risks, such as traffic, downed power lines or fire, that may cause additional injury to the accident victims or individuals trying to provide help. Mitigate any danger, as best as possible, prior to moving forward to help. If a scene is too dangerous to enter, wait for emergency personnel to respond.

Observe the scene and try to determine how the accident was caused and what happened, if you did not witness the incident. Consider where victims are and how badly they are injured by assessing the placement of vehicles and visible damage.

Identify other individuals in the area who can help provide assistance. Ask bystanders if they know first aid or CPR, and instruct someone to call 9-1-1 immediately.

Look for injured people and determine how many victims there are. Ask conscious accident victims if anyone was travelling with them; check in cars and the surrounding area for unconscious victims. Tend to unresponsive victims first, as they may be suffering from more serious injuries.

Scan the scene again for possible danger to ensure that no further injury is sustained by you or the victims. Accident scenes can change quickly and should be continually assessed for safety.

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