Rider Down: How to handle a downed motorcycle rider incident

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - I-90


Rider Down!

Are you ready to handle a downed rider incident if need be?

by Jacqueline Subbie

What to do if a rider goes down:

  • Secure the area.
  • Get advanced medical help.
  • Do not move an unconscious rider unless there is a compelling reason.
  • Do not remove their helmet unless CPR is necessary.
  • Attend to any bleeding.
  • Stay calm; keep them calm.
  • Keep them from getting chilled or overheated.
  • Keep them comfortable.
  • Do not abandon. They need to know that someone is there for them.

This is about a subject that none of us likes to think about. I'm talking about a rider going down – hard. Nearly all of us have at one time dropped the bike while we were backing up in a slippery parking space, or somehow misjudged the curve of the road or slid on a little – or a lot – of gravel as we roared down the road. We get up, shake ourselves off, give everyone the look that says "I meant to do that," get back on our ride and go our merry way wondering how much that little mishap will cost in chrome replacement on our pipes. But what happens when the rider goes down, and doesn't jump right back up?

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Jackie's Suggested First Aid Kit
(These basic items will fit in a quart size storage bag)

  • Sterile Adhesive Dressing Roll
  • Triangular Bandage
  • Sterile Eye Dressing
  • Sterile Dressing Pad
  • Safety pins
  • Bandaids of various types
  • Ibuprofen, Aspirin
  • Antihistamine
  • Laerdal Faceshield (disposable barrier)
  • 1-pair Latex gloves (medical quality)
  • Sterile 0.9% Saline Solution
  • Non-Alcohol Wipes
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Foil Blanket
  • 1-Sanitary napkin (compress for bleeding)
  • 2-OB Tampons (tooth or nose bleeding)
  • Pen and paper
  • 2-1 gallon bags for disposal of used items

In any motorcycle accident where the rider(s) has been thrown from the motorcycle, assume spinal injuries and treat the rider accordingly. Head injuries are a strong possibility even with DOT or Snell-approved helmets. In any trauma situation monitor airway management, blood loss, and shock.

A word about helmet removal: DON'T! I know your first thought would be to make the downed rider more comfortable, but helmets should only be removed if you intend to perform CPR or if the helmet is impeding proper airway management. Otherwise, leave helmet removal to the experts. The helmet could be helping to prevent (further) spinal or head injuries.

I am using the term "rider" but it encompasses both rider and passenger. If you are with someone who goes down hard, there are some safety and victim issues you should consider. First: is the area safe? Do not move an unconscious rider out of the road unless there is a compelling reason. Moving the rider could compound a spinal and/or neck injury. Control any bleeding with a clean cloth and by applying hand pressure. Have the victim help, if they are conscious. Stay calm. If you are calm, you will think more clearly, and the downed rider will pick up on that. If you haven't already called for help, do it now. Keep the rider from getting chilled or overheated. Shock can set in pretty quickly. Stay with them. Right now they need to know that someone is there for them. Keep them quiet; keep them comfortable.

These are pretty basic precautions. If you take a "First Responder" class you will learn about airway management, breathing and pulmonary emergencies. Most classes also cover how to set fractures, how to handle shock, heart attack, bee stings, diabetic emergencies, hypothermia (ah, those cold, rainy days spent on the road) and so much more. You will walk out of there feeling like you've been through the proverbial ringer, but you will know you've achieved something truly life affirming. Contact the Red Cross for information on available classes. Locate your local Red Cross branch by visiting: http://www.redcross.org/where/where.html . Check your local community college. If you've only thought about taking a class, but you just don't think you can handle it, think again. This training is a great confidence builder. I stumbled into class not knowing anything more than how to remove a splinter and apply a Band-Aid. It never hurts to be prepared; having the skills and never needing them sure beats needing the skills and not having them. You could save a life.

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