The word “carnage” is often used to describe what unfolds on South African roads over the festive season when the elation of celebrating Christmas and ushering in the New Year is always marred by dramatic increases in accidents on the roads in every province.

During the 2010/2011 festive season, 1 221 fatal crashes occurred resulting in 1 551 people losing their lives. This figure does not include accidents and bumper bashings in which no fatalities occurred. In December 2010 alone, paramedics from ER24 attended to some 2 970 accidents – an indication of the sheer volume of accidents that typically occur.

“For anyone venturing onto the roads over the December and January period, extra vigilance and extreme caution is strongly recommended. Ensure that you follow the rules of the road, don’t drive under the influence of drugs and or alcohol, and make sure your car is roadworthy.

“Also be versed on the procedures to follow should you see, or are involved in, a car accident. Witnessing or being involved in an accident can be frightening and traumatic. It helps to know what to do and to stay calm,” failing to stop after having an accident is a criminal offence.

“If you are involved in an accident, you are required by law to stop your vehicle. The consequences of not stopping can be severe, particularly if the accident causes injury to another person, or which causes damage to property,” he says.

So, the first step is to stop and switch on your hazard lights to warn other vehicles of the accident. Then, if you are able to do so, get out of your car and check the nature and extent of the injuries to the other people involved. If necessary, immediately call emergency services on 082 911 or 10111. Do not attempt to move the cars or any of the injured people involved in the accident.

If it is a minor accident with no injuries, move the cars out of the way of the traffic. Write down as many details of the accident as possible, including the details of the other driver and their car, car registration numbers, names of witnesses, date and time of the accident. This will be useful for insurance purposes. Also, record the location of the accident, including street names and landmarks.

As witness to an accident, human nature may prompt you to take action by jumping from your car to help, to see if anyone has been hurt and to call the relevant response teams.

“Your own safety is your first concern. Don’t spring from your car if it isn’t safe to do so. Your first response as a witness to an accident in which you suspect someone has been hurt is to always call emergency services. This is something that many accident witnesses tend to forget in the commotion and stress,” he advises.

If someone has indeed been injured, the most important principles to remember when helping an accident victim are, according to information on courtesy of Netcare 911, as follows:

Do NOT move the patient or attempt to remove them from the vehicle UNLESS there is an immediate threat to life (e.g. the car is on fire and you are unable to extinguish it).
If the person is unconscious, open the mouth and check there is nothing inside causing obstruction.
Check if the person is breathing.
If the patient is breathing leave them in the position you find them and monitor them regularly.
If the patient is NOT breathing and you have been trained to do so, you may begin CPR and rescue breathing as necessary.
If a person is bleeding heavily from a wound, take any available material e.g. a t-shirt/ gauze from the first aid kit/ a towel/ a blanket/ etc, and place it over the open bleeding wound. Then, press tightly applying direct pressure to the wound. Maintain that pressure until the emergency services arrive. Do not stop pressing to check if there is continued bleeding or to look at the wound. This procedure may save a person’s life.
Make sure to inform the people involved in the accident that help is on its way. Advise them to stay calm and still.

“Excerpt from Insurance Gateway internet Article – 7 Dec 2011 Source: I Heart PR & Comments by Auto & General’s spokesperson, Angelo Haggiyannes”