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This is a question Cars

"Here in my car", said 80s pop hero Gary Numan, "I feel safest of all". He obviously never shared the same stretch of road as me, then. Automotive tales of mirth and woe, please.

(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 12:34)
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No funnies I'm afraid,
but I hope this will make life easier for someone sometime.

A few years ago I was driving home down the A5 near Coventry and Rugby. It's a busy road that alternates between dual and single carriageway (it's single carriageway at this point). It's commuter time and it's busy. A massive line of cars, but we're all moving, albeit plodding along at about 50. There's a lorry infront of me and just a line of cars behind. Everyone's just trying to get to work.

All of a sudden there's a sickening crunch/bang. The lorry infront of me swerves violently to the right into a gap in the oncoming traffic, it's rear tyres on the trailer locked, screaming and smoking and I'm now heading straight for a stationary lorry which was infront of the one that swerved. I'm sensible in queues like this so had time to stop.

There's been a crash. I'm already out of my car and running to see if I can help, I'm first aid trained and that's all that's in my mind. The lorry which swerved has now stopped awrkwardly across the road but I'm ignoring that.

I was behind three lorries. The first one had stopped, suddenly. The second hadn't noticed and just drove straight into the back of the first. The third swerved out the way and is blocking oncoming traffic. I'm stood in the middle of the road now, looking at the crash which happened somewhere around 20 seconds ago.

I see the cab, squashed. I see oil and glass. I can smell diesel, the road is covered in it. I see blood. Blood dripping from the cab, out from under the door. The driver in the crushed cab is slumped over the wheel. Blood is pouring from his head and covering him.

I look back to my car and I see the most horrific thing I think I've ever seen. I see just my car. It's still running and the driver's door is open, I literally just jumped out and ran to help. And I see a queue of traffic. That's it. I see a queue of traffic as far back as I can see the road. I see people. Lots of people, all just sitting in their cars and I freeze. There's very little sound. The cars are all stopped and the crash happened probably 40 seconds ago.

I'm the only person who thought to help. I'm now stood in the middle of the road watching a man die and I'm the only one who cares. I'm still frozen. I look back to the injured man and I'm trying to think, trying to do the right thing. All sorts of things are running through my head. I'm looking for hazards, am I going to make myself a victim? I'm trying to figure out what to do, I'm tryng to think. Should I go and get my first aid kit or should I be trying to get him out of the cab? My head is full but I can't think straight.

I'm the only one and all of a sudden the pressure is all on me. And I can't think straight and I don't know what to do.

This time when I look back up the road I see a man running toward me. He was maybe 25 cars back in the queue and he's running to help, running past all the other people who are just annoyed by the delay. The spell breaks and I get my phone out. Dead. I run to the car behind mine. There's a young lady in a suit who winds her window down. I tell her to phone for an ambulance, that there's a man trapped, alive but bleeding badly. She says her phone is out of credit and I reminder her that she can still call 999 and she does.

The man running to help is here now and together we get my first aid kit and go to the truck. As it happens there's very little we can do. The door is crushed shut and we can only reach through the window. We clean up some blood from his face and he starts to come round. He's semi conscious now and breathing heavily and trying to scream. I'll never forget that.

But we're functioning. We get the medics on the phone and we're told the air ambulance is on it's way. I'm on an adrenaline high and shaking but we're doing the right thing and helping. The air ambulance arrives and everything is OK now. They get the guy out the cab. He's fully conscious now and actually hobbles to the helicopter and is taken to hospital. He survives, unlike his truck which is almost unrecognizable.

The police turn up in a bit and we give statements. This takes a little while and then we're on our way. I worked with my family at the time and had called quickly to tell them I'd be late. When I get to work I'm all ready to give this big story of drama and heroics but as soon as I see my mother I break down. The adrenaline has gone and I've got nothing left.

It was a horrible crash but the worst thing was that I was the only one who tried to help. Until the other guy came running from his car right up the queue to help I was the only one who cared. All the pressure was on my shoulders and I froze.

So, how am I hoping this will make someone's life easier? Simple. If you see something where you could help, for fuck's sake help. Even if someone is already there and you don't know first aid or whatever you wouldn't believe the difference it makes knowing you're not the only one and the pressure isn't all on you. I don't know what I would have done if the other guy hadn't come to help.

Sorry for the lack of funnies. I cried a lot writing that because if what could have been. It still haunts me that so many people could just ignore another person like that. No words can describe the sheer emptiness I felt when I realised no-one else cared.

I hope you b3tards are better people than the commuters on the A5 that day. Please just do the right thing and help.

I'll be back in a bit to check for spelling and grammar etc, not feeling up to it at the moment so I apologise for any smelling pistakes.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 19:21, 12 replies)
I'd like to think I'd try to help
although as you say, you can be putting yourself in harm's way and we're told not to do that!

Well done though.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 19:27, closed)
Well done
There's a psychological phenomenon called the bystander effect meaning there's an inversely proportional relationship between number of people witnessing an accident and likelihood that one of them will help out, as everyone expects that someone else will do it. To get out in front of that many people and try and save a life is really something.

I hope you'll inspire me, but honestly I can't know my reaction until I'm in that sort of situation.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 20:27, closed)
I didn't think.
That's what bugs me about other people's reaction. As the car stopped I opened the door and ran to do what I could. I didn't think of who was watching or whether someone else would do it, it never crossed my mind to. I didn't have time to think any of that.

I just don't get it. I've not heard of the bystander effect, but have seen it in action (on other occasions as well) and always wondered why people don't help. I don't think I'll ever understand that.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 23:06, closed)
You didn't freeze
you were just untrained.

It takes time to process an emergency, and the less familiar you are, the longer it takes.

As an HGV driver, I salute you.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 20:33, closed)
I've been crawling along in a pea-souper about 10 years ago when the artic in front of me has rammed the artic in front of *him*.
The trailer makes a horrible side-to-side shudder, as well as stopping absolutely dead. I only just stopped in time myself, but I got straight out and ran up to the front, 4 or 5 other drivers did the same but the crashed cab's windscreen, dash, steering wheel, driver, seat and bunk together occupied a length of no more than a foot.

Another guy there was some kind of off-duty medic/cop and took charge of things, although there wasn't a lot any of us could do besides wait for the emergency services.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 22:30, closed)
And no. I'm actually a trained safety boat driver. I'm trained to deal with emergencies on the water, from concussions and head wounds to hypothermia and so on. I have to deal with entrapments where there's someone stuck under the boat and you know that if you don't do exactly the right thing in the next few seconds they'll die. But that's fine, I can cope with that. The point is that I'm trained to deal with life and death situations, but it still wasn't enough.

I suppose that's on my terf though. I'm used to that situation. I just was used to dealing with squashed truckers covered in blood!

I have a friend who is a fireman, and one who's a paramedic. They both have my eternal respect, as do all members of the emergency services.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 23:14, closed)
I witnessed a crash once
and sat in the back seat of a car holding the lady's neck and trying to comfort her. I inhaled a large amount of battery acid smoke and wrecked my voice for a few weeks.

Make sure you're safe before hopping in like I did.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 20:45, closed)
First aid
A few years back there was a bike/car accident outside my office Fortunately for the Biker I didn't freeze (Naval training I think)and I dealt with a severed femoral artery until the ambulance arrived, he survived and wanted to buy me a drink to say thanks I told him to go on a first aid course so he could do the same for someone else. BUT despite having seen worse things and being trained for it I was in bits emotionally for days. YOU did so well and I hope you are around if it ever goes wrong for me
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 22:20, closed)
Good on you
this is precisely why I signed up for St John Ambulance a few weeks back. I'd hate to think of there being an accident and being totally unable to help.
Sounds like you did a really good thing that day, and I hope it doesn't haunt you - it's something you should be immensely proud of.
(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 22:31, closed)
not surprised it shook you up. good work.
(, Wed 28 Apr 2010, 0:00, closed)
People are funny like that.
I like to see myself as an observer of people, and it always amuses me that no-one will cross the road until someone else does. Which is usually me. People are basically pack animals- although it astounds me that the pack instinct didn't kick in with more people as you mentioned. Normal behaviour for me would be to jump right in there and figure out what is needed. I'm surprised you didn't end up in shock or something.

Either way, fucking kudos for what you did fella. Well done.

/will be joining St Johns to know what to do as all I am good for is combat wounds.

//Edit II

You are an inspiration, I might add.
(, Wed 28 Apr 2010, 1:26, closed)
You probably saved a life
so you froze for a while - that's understandable. But you got to the guy and you helped him, and that's what counts. Someone did the same for my girlfriend/now wife once and it saved her life. They stood next to her, reaching through the broken window, with their hand pressing on an artery and talking calmly until the paramedics arrived. She doesn't remember that event, thankfully. She survived, but severely disabled. If that person hadn't been there, she would almost certainly have died in the car. I spoke to him after the event - he was understandably shaken up, but at the same time very humble. He kept repeating that anyone else would have done the same thing. I'm not sure everyone's capable of reacting like that, but I'm glad he was.
(, Wed 28 Apr 2010, 13:25, closed)

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