Safe Riding

Taking a Crash Course - Accident Scene Management

Written by  January 31, 2009

Motorcycle accidents happen. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. When someone goes down, it makes a huge difference if there is someone on the scene who is qualified to take charge and manage the situation until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) help arrives. Quick response by trained bystanders can help keep a bad situation from becoming a tragic one by effectively dealing with accident victims’ injuries and preventing further injury to victims and rescuers.

Inspired by a program presented by Dick “Slider” Gilmore, Vicki Roberts-Sanfelipo, RN/EMT, established Accident Scene Management, Inc. (ASMI) in 1996 to provide Bystander Assistance Community Education to motorcyclists. She came to the realization that even medical professionals often lack the training to deal with the special needs of motorcycle crash victims. Certain “rules” such as never moving an accident victim, never removing the victim’s helmet, and always tilting the head to open the victim’s airway before rescue breathing are not universal and do not apply in every situation. Vicki developed a training program and authored a book called “A Crash Course for the Motorcyclist.” ASMI-trained instructors are available all over the country to present the program in the form of group seminars.

I recently attended the course at Indian Creek Community Church in Olathe, Kansas, hosted by Romans Road Riders, the church’s motorcycle ministry. Lead instructor Virginia Phillips, RN, was assisted by her husband, Steve. In addition to instructing the ASMI course, Virginia is a long-time volunteer for American Red Cross, a member of H.O.G. and former Ladies of Harley officer in her local chapter, and a leather seamstress operating her own business, Grace Specialties, Inc. Her personal ride is a Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic. Steve rides a 1978 Harley Super-Glide and is a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) instructor. He is also actively involved in H.O.G. having held the offices of Director, Assistant Director, Safety Officer, and Road Captain and is a member of A.M.A. and Freedom of Road Riders.

The fee for the course is $55, and minimum enrollment for a class is 18. The class includes about seven hours of instruction, and students receive the ASMI study guide book and several handout materials including information about insurance, state Good Samaritan laws, and a DVD covering motorcycle legal issues. Students experience hands-on training in helmet removal, moving accident victims, and giving rescue breathing using the jaw thrust method. (Please note that these actions should be taken ONLY IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.) Medical professionals receive CEU's through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (7 credits) upon completion of the course. Everyone who completes the training receives a certificate and a patch.

Our day began with the introduction of the instructors by Tom King of Romans Road Riders. Virginia provided some background information about ASMI and explained the objectives of the course. She then introduced insurance agent Matt North who talked about the various types of insurance coverage available for motorcycles.

Next, information about Good Samaritan laws in Kansas and Missouri was handed out and discussed. The point was made that although there is no way to prevent someone from filing a lawsuit, judges and juries are generally very reluctant to punish someone for trying to save a life or provide assistance to an injured person.

There was discussion about trauma kits or first aid kits and what they should contain. ASMI recommends the following items at a minimum: trauma sheers, a breathing barrier w/filter, two pairs of latex free gloves, two packages of sterile 4X4 gauze, gauze roll, occlusive dressing, and tape in a PVC lined water-resistant pack.

The course manual is organized according to the acronym P.A.C.T. (Prevent further injury, Assess the situation, Contact the EMS, Treat the injured). The first section explains how to secure the scene, avoid disease transmission, preserve evidence, handle the motorcycle, and move the injured (if ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY because of the situation.) For example, if a victim is face down and not breathing or is lying in a puddle of gasoline or in a place where there is risk of being run over by traffic, he or she is exposed to greater risk by not being moved. At the end of this section, the class divided into small groups to practice various methods used to move an injured person. A primary consideration is to maintain spinal immobilization. Spinal injuries are common in motorcycle accidents, so all victims should be handled with the assumption that they have such injuries.

The section on assessing the situation provides information about types of motorcycle accidents and the injuries that are likely to result. The type and configuration of the bike may also be a factor in the nature and severity of injury.

Contacting EMS should be done right away, as soon as a preliminary assessment of the situation is done. The manual provides guidance as to the kind of information that should be provided to EMS. It is important to minimize the time on the scene. EMS has the goal of getting a severe trauma victim to the care they need within one hour, known as the Golden Hour. This has been shown to greatly increase chances of survival.

The final section is on treating injuries. This is the longest section, providing information on various types of injuries and appropriate first aid procedures for each. If a victim is wearing a full-face helmet and is not breathing, it will be necessary to remove the helmet before providing rescue breathing. Once the helmet is off, the jaw thrust method is used instead of tilting the head to open the airway. Our class practiced helmet removal while maintaining spinal immobilization. We also had opportunity to use a dummy to practice the jaw thrust and rescue breathing. If the victim does not require rescue breathing, it is very important to leave the helmet in place.

Virginia and Steve did a great job of presenting all of the class material and answering questions. Several members of the class also had very good input and enhanced the learning experience. If I am ever injured in a vehicle accident, I hope that there will be someone present who has been through this training. Please note that the information in this article is intended to provide a sample of the material presented in the class. In order to be adequately prepared to deal with an accident scene and assist victims, one must go through the entire class. For more information about scheduling or attending a class, Virginia can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 816-741-7475.

Special thanks go to the Indian Creek Community Church and the Romans Road Riders for hosting the course. The Romans Road Riders meet at the church on the first Saturday of each month for rides. The group is open to all licensed motorcycle riders who are willing to sign a liability release form and are ready to ride. More information about this group can be obtained from Tom King, 913-254-4499 Ext 2015.

Article and photos by Stripe