First aid on the road

Part of: The Highway Code, The Highway Code Annexes

If you haven’t had any first aid training, the following points could be helpful but there’s no substitute for proper training. Any first aid given at the scene of an incident should be looked on only as a temporary measure until the emergency services arrive.

Deal with danger

Further collisions and fire are the main dangers following a crash. Approach any vehicle involved with care. Switch off all engines and, if possible, warn other traffic. Stop anyone from smoking.

Get help

Try to get the assistance of bystanders. Get someone to call the appropriate emergency services on 999 as soon as possible. They’ll need to know the exact location of the incident and the number of vehicles involved.   Try to give information about the condition of any casualties, for example - if anyone is having difficulty breathing, is bleeding heavily or does not respond when spoken to.

Help those involved

Do not move casualties still in vehicles unless there is a threat of further danger. Do not remove a motorcyclist’s helmet unless it is essential. Remember the casualty may be suffering from shock. Do not give them anything to eat or drink. Do try to make them warm and as comfortable as you can. Protect them from rain or snow, but avoid unnecessary movement. Do give reassurance confidently and try not to leave them alone or let them wander into the path of other traffic.

Provide emergency care

  • D – Danger – check that you are not in danger.
  • R – Response – try to get a response by asking questions and gently shaking their shoulders.
  • A – Airway – if the person is not talking and the airway may be blocked, then place one hand under the chin and lift the chin up and forward.  If they’re still having difficulty with breathing then gently tilt the head back.  
  • B – Breathing – normal breathing should be established. Once the airway is open check breathing for up to 10 seconds.
  • C – Compressions – if they have no signs of life and there is no pulse, then chest  compressions should be administered.  Place two hands in the centre of the chest and press down hard and fast - around 5–6 centimetres and about twice a second. You may only need one hand for a child and shouldn’t press down as far.  For infants, use two fingers in the middle of the chest when delivering compressions and don’t press down too far. 

If the casualty is unconscious and breathing, place them in the recovery position until medical help arrives


First check for anything that may be in the wound, such as glass. Taking care not to press on the object, build up padding on either side of the object.  If there’s nothing embedded, apply firm pressure over the wound to stem the flow of blood.

As soon as practical, fasten a pad to the wound with a bandage or length of cloth. Use the cleanest material available. If a limb is bleeding but not broken, raise it above the level of the heart to reduce the flow of blood. Any restriction of blood circulation for more than a short time could cause long-term injuries.


Check the casualty for shock, and if possible, try to cool the burn for at least 10 minutes with plenty of clean, cold water or other non-toxic liquid. Don’t try to remove anything that’s sticking to the burn.

Be prepared

Always carry a first aid kit – you might never need it, but it could save a life.  Learn first aid – you can get first aid training from a qualified organisation such as the local ambulance services, St John Ambulance, the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps, the British Red Cross or any suitable qualified body.

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