Witnessed an accident involving a cyclist. Tips for the accident bystander.


Megan Hottman of www.TheCyclist-Lawyer.com

Megan Hottman, lawyer with Hottman Law Office, and super fast cyclist.

It can happen so fast. One minute you’re enjoying a nice ride with some friends … and then the next minute, your eyes process a car colliding with a member of your group. Your heartrate goes up –your adrenaline kicks in. You stop your bike, clip out and hit the ground running …

What do you do now?

1. COMMIT.

Take 2 seconds to process in your mind what has just happened and commit to memory: the make/model/color of the motor vehicle; what you observed as the accident happened (i.e.traffic signals, stop lights, was the car speeding, etcetera); gender and description of the driver; license plate state and number (even a partial number can help). If the driver flees the scene, you may be the only person that can help the police track the driver down. If you want to help your friend, you must remember everything you can. Look around –did anyone else witness the accident? Are they staying to help? Make note of their descriptions and ask them to stay to speak to the police (yell “please stay and give your statement” at them as you run to assist your friend).

2. ASSIST.

When cyclists are hit, it is very important they do not move while their medical condition is assessed. If you suspect head/neck/back trauma, they should remain where they are, as stabilized as possible (Most doctors recommend you not remove their helmet). This means that in a busy street, someone needs to begin directing traffic around the downed rider as quickly as possible to avoid further injury. (Note: the cyclist may not realize the extent of their injuries and may try to get up right away. You need to check them and use your judgment – you need to instruct them to remain still if you fear serious injury). You may need to summon another person to help direct traffic so that you can attend to your friend.

3. CALL FOR HELP.

The cyclist will be dazed, stunned, concussed, confused. YOU need to call 911. Give the intersection, the condition of the cyclist and any information you can provide to help the officers/EMT when they arrive on the scene. Do you know of any health conditions your friend has, are they wearing a Road ID or bracelet that mentions allergies?

4. BE A FRIEND.

While you wait for police and ambulance, stay next to your friend. Talk to them, help keep them calm, try to assist them however you can. If the cyclist can move, assist them out of the road. Depending on traffic, you may need to retrieve their bike, large debris, helmet, shoes – any items that came from the cyclist or bike, from the road. Place everything nearby so the police can inspect it. Take this opportunity to make notes about your recollections of the accident (#1 above) before you forget anything. You may also need to keep your eye on the motorist if they are still nearby. Make sure they do not try to flee the scene.

5. THINK FOR YOUR FRIEND.

Help your friend while they receive medical care from the EMT. (For example, many cyclists automatically refuse the ambulance ride to the hospital for fear of the costs involved. If you know your friend is in trouble and/or you know they have decent health insurance, try to help them think through this decision). Remember –a cyclist who was just hit by a car will not be thinking clearly so you need to advocate for them.

6. PHOTOGRAPH.

While your friend is attended to by the EMT and the police are investigating, whip out your smartphone. Photograph your friend’s injuries, their equipment, take photos of the scene, any skid marks, the car, the driver. This may be your friend’s only opportunity to preserve photos of the scene exactly as it looked at the time of the accident.


REMEMBER: (a) the injured cyclist will not be thinking clearly, so use your best judgment and be their advocate; and (b)you may be the only person who can identify the motorist, witnesses, or give a statement about what happened so pay attention to everything around you!

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