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What to do if you come across a downed rider

As much as we hate to admit it at one time or another we will come across a rider who has gone down. How we handle the situation can and will make a difference in the outcome sometimes. This is just intended as a basic primer on what and what not to do.


1. REMAIN CALM, getting excited will not help the victim.

2. Get yourself, bike or vehicle away from any danger or impact zones.

3. Secure or protect the rider, it's critical that you get someone to go in both directions to slow oncoming traffic down, else you might have a bigger catastrophe on your hands.

4. Call for emergency services or have someone in your group call, if necessary.

5. REMAIN CALM, have one person in control of the area.

6. Check the downed rider for injuries. If they are conscious talk to them calmly and reassure them that help is on the way. Ask what parts of their body hurts. Do not attempt to move the the rider if they can not do so themselves. KEEP THE RIDER CALM.

7. If the rider is not conscious assess what injuries you can without moving the rider. UNLESS THERE IS A NEED TO PERFORM MOUTH TO MOUTH OR CPR DO NOT REMOVE THEIR HELMET OR MOVE THE RIDER.

8. If the victim is bleeding assess the severity of the bleeding. Most bleeding can be stopped by applying direct pressure to the wound. As with any bodily fluids protect yourself as much as possible.


10. When professional emergency help arrives give them a quick run down of what you have found or done. Then move out of their way unless they ask you for help.

11. Answer any questions you can as truthfully as possible.


13. Determine what you will do when you leave the accident scene. Whether you will continue riding for the day or whether you will call it a day. This decision will be greatly influenced by your personal psyche and circumstances of the accident. There is no shame in calling quits for the day when you are distracted by the accident.


Again this is just intended to give you a bit of guidance as to what to do if you happen upon a downed rider. It is not intended to give you specific instructions on how to treat injuries or to render first aid. This is just intended for you to able to help until QUALIFIED PROFESSIONAL HELP arrives.



Accident Scene Management


As motorcycle riders we are all aware of the inherent dangers and risks that we take when we mount our bikes and head out to enjoy a good ride. Yes, it is that part of our shared passion that many of us donít want to think about. However, these dangers and risks become all too apparent when we are faced with situations when a fellow rider is involved in an accident. Whether you are riding alone or in a group and you find yourself in a situation where a rider has gone down, ask yourself honestly, do you know what to do? Well, I asked myself this very question recently and realized that no, I do not. Aside from being able to contact 911 or flag down someone who could, I realized beyond that there is little I know how to do to assist a fallen rider. So, I have gathered some information that helped point me in the right direction and felt it was information that could help a lot of people who may not know what to do if such a situation were to arise.


I would like to share some tips on how to avoid being a part of an accident and what to do should you happening upon one.




If an accident does happen, DO NOT STOP!!!! , continue to ride past until everyone has gone through. Do not target fixate and add to the scene. This is very important for everyone to accomplish if there is one.


This basically applies to group rides when there is a train of riders behind you. Suddenly stopping to assist in an accident can cause riders behind you that are unaware of the accident to slam on there brakes or swerve to avoid you and possibly add to the accident.


If you are riding alone be aware of your surroundings and the traffic around you before pulling off to assist. You do not want get hit from behind because you slowed too quickly and the car behind you did not have time to react.




The first thing you need to do when arriving on an accident scene is to stop, take two deep breaths to help you remain calm.

The idea of psychological management is that all the other people who are pumped and want to help will do whatever they are told to do by a calm person who seems to be in control and knows what he or she is doing. If you're excited and out of control as well, everyone will run around wasting precious time in an unorganized fashion.


1) Get to victim, reassure, establish communication.


After a person has gone down, they will be in a confused and scared state. They probably don't know what happened when they went down. They may be confused, frantic, etc., and often the only thing on their mind will be their bike. It is important to reassure them and to make sure they will not try to move or get to their bike. Something on the order of, "You've been in a motorcycle accident. It is important that you do not try to move. My name is (whatever your name is). "Tell them the ambulance is coming (assuming someone has been sent to get one or has called for one!) If your name is something like "Chainsaw'' or "Mega-death'', tell them your name is John or Bob or Mike.


Be careful what you say around the victim, even if they are unconscious. Hearing works in the unconscious state and if you say something like, "Boy, is this dude messed up bad! Maybe we shouldn't call an ambulance after all!'', it's going to register at some level with the person and can do nothing but harm. How you say things will be as important as what you say; keep (or at least sound) calm and it will reduce the panic of everyone else present.


2) Safety factors


An accident scene can be a hectic place with a lot of things going on at once. It is important to keep safety in mind; if you are helping someone lying in the middle of the road and a semi comes barreling down on both of you, you aren't going to do that person much good.


a. Traffic

If people are available, get someone up road and down road to wave down traffic. This is especially important in tight twisties where they may not have time to stop after seeing the accident site.


b. Hazardous material spills (gas, oil, brake fluid)

People and vehicles will slip on this stuff. If ambulance personnel slip on oil while carrying the victim, it is bad. Either clean it off the road or indicate to everyone where it is.


c. Power lines

If power lines are down around or near the victim, ambulance crews may not be able to get near the person until they are shut off. It is important to call the local utility company to get these live wires turned off at the same time an ambulance is called. If the ambulance arrives and they are still live, they will have to call the utility company and wait for them to come out, wasting a lot of precious time in the Golden Hour.


d. Fire

People who smoke tend to light up under stress. Ask these people to either extinguish their smokes or move away from the flammable materials and/or bikes. It is easy to forget something obvious like this in a stressful situation like an accident scene.


e. Safety circle

Establish a few people around the immediate accident scene to help direct traffic, to point out fluid spills, and to warn people who may want to light up


3) Best-trained individual (medically-wise) attends to victim (U-ABCC)


The person with the most training (first aid, CPR, etc.) attends directly to the victim. Assuming the victim is lying on the ground, this person should sit behind their head and should stabilize his or her head to avoid unnecessary movement (i.e. hold their head still). Assume the person has a back/neck injury and any unnecessary movement could risk paralysis.


This person should be doing "U-ABCC'' at the arrival on the scene and every 5 minutes thereafter


U Urgency

Try to determine if the person's injuries are (a) minor or (b) major, i.e. urgent. If unsure, it is urgent. See (6) on trying to diagnose injuries.


A. Airway

Is there something to impede their airway? Gravel in the helmet, something down the throat? This needs to be cleared immediately, without helmet removal if at all possible.


B. Breathing

Is the person breathing? Determined by listening, watching their chest, feeling for breath, etc.


C. Circulation

Check the pulse on the throat initially and subsequently on their wrist. This is the carotid artery, right next to the wind pipe/adam's apple on either side. If pulse is not present, remove helmet if necessary and begin CPR immediately. When checking pulse on their wrist, do not check with thumb; use the two fingers next to the thumb.


D. Cervical Spine Immobilization

Support the victim's head and make sure they don't move it. CONSIDER EVERY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT A HEAD INJURY, CONSIDER EVERY MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT A CERVICAL/BACK INJURY! This is important even if they feel they can move their head normally! When you talk to the victim initially, add on a short bit to reassure them;


"You've been in a motorcycle accident. It is important that you don't move. My name is (whatever your name is). Answer me without moving your head. We don't know if you have a neck injury or not. An ambulance is on the way.''


Again, make sure that the victim does not move at all, their head or any other part.


4) The three questions


Ask the victim three questions and document their responses;

Who are you?

Where are you?

What time of day is it?

(Or asking what day of week it is would be fine also. Many people do not know what time of day it is without a watch even in a normal state.)


5a) If breathing is taking place normally, LEAVE HELMET ON!


It is very dangerous to remove someone's helmet if they have some type of cervical/back injury. The only time it should be removed is if the airway is blocked and cannot be cleared with the helmet on or if it is necessary to perform CPR.


5b) helmet removal procedure if airway blocked or no respiratory action.


This is the method recommended by the American College of Orthopedic Surgeons. It requires two people.


Remove glasses and unbuckle the chinstrap. One person should be to the side of the head of the victim and the other person should be directly behind the head of the victim, stabilizing the head to avoid excess movement (as seen in (3)).


The person on the side puts one hand behind the victim's head supporting at the base of the skull (not on helmet). They put their other hand on the jaw bone/chin (again, not on helmet). They will be supporting the head, so it is important to get a good solid grip. Keep some tension in the arms so that if the person pulling the helmet slips the victim's head won't drop.


The person sitting behind the head will then slowly pull the helmet directly back and off of the head. Watch out for catching the nose on the chin-guard on full-face helmets, as well as ears and earrings.


After the helmet is off, put a leather jacket or something under the head of the victim! If the person supporting their head lets go, their head will drop a good 4 inches or so. This would not be good. If possible, it would be best to have a third person ready with something to place under the victim's head once the helmet is off.


After the helmet is off, the person behind the head should again hold the victim's head to promote cervical immobilization.


AGAIN, THIS IS ONLY TO BE USED IN SITUATIONS WHERE THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION! Leave the helmet on until the ambulance personnel arrive if at all possible!


6a) After initial evaluation of seriousness of injuries, call for ambulance


After there has been a quick evaluation of the number of injured people and just the most preliminary guess of seriousness, someone has to be sent to get an ambulance. Remember that an ambulance can only support one truly injured person.


It is important to remember that a lot of the injuries that don't look serious to us could very well be life-threatening and injuries that look fatal are relatively minor. Don't get fancy with the initial seriousness evaluation. If you can't tell, assume it's Urgent!


If a cell phone is not available, send one or two bikes to the nearest house. Send a woman if possible. The idea is that you don't have time to be turned away from someone's house and they are more likely to be receptive to a lady than some Scary Biker Dude. It may sound silly, but if you are turned away from a country home due to looking like a Scary Biker Dude, you may lose several minutes trying to find the next one. Selection of who goes to call is very important. He also says to have the person going to the door wearing light colors; if someone else has a white jacket trade jackets before heading out for the house. Chances are the person going to the door will look friendlier wearing a light-colored outfit than black leathers. In short, send a female to the door if at all possible.


When you go to the door, REMAIN CALM... THINK! Take a second and a couple of deep breaths. It will not help to have this biker person in a very excited state on the doorstep of some person's home. The people will be far more receptive to someone who looks like they have a grip on themselves.


Do not ask directly for entry into their house; something like "There has been an accident. Please call 911.'' There is no need to specify that it was a motorcycle accident to them (it is important to let the Emergency Medical Services dispatcher know that it was a motorcycle accident, however). It is less threatening to ask to call 911 than it is to ask to come in and use their phone.


6b) Things to tell Emergency Medical Services dispatcher


1. There has been a motorcycle accident

2. Need an ambulance

3. The # of injured people (and how badly injured they are). A severely traumatized person will require an entire ambulance to themselves, so it is important to give the EMS dispatcher some idea of the scope of the accident. If they only send one ambulance and there are two people who need one immediately, it will be a problem.

4. Location of accident

(get help from the people whose phone you're using, they should know how to describe their location best)

5. You (the caller) hang up last!

The EMS dispatchers are well-trained and will get all the information they need from you before hanging up. Stay on the line until they do.

6c) Things that may be necessary for victim.


It is helpful if you know some special equipment is going to be necessary to tell the dispatcher;

1. Helicopter

Most rural areas cannot handle severe trauma and they may need to get the victim to a trauma center via helicopter. If they know there may be a need, they can get the helicopter ready to leave for the rural hospital when a doctor establishes the extent of the injuries. Slider says that in Iowa at least, if the helicopter comes out and it turns out it wasn't necessary; there is no charge for the service.

2. Fire

Should the fire department be called in?

3. Jaws of life

4. Utilities

See (2-C) about downed power lines above.


7a) Document personal information if possible (victim may pass out)


Before the ambulance arrives, if possible, document information about the victim. They may become unconscious and it will be helpful to have information like;

Full name

Next of kin (plus phone number)

Age, date of birth



7b) AMPLE documentation


There is AMPLE time to document this before the ambulance arrives. Again, this will be very helpful to the paramedics if the victim passes out.

A Are you allergic to anything?

M Are you on any medications? Street drugs?

P What's your past medical history?

L Last meal - when did you eat last?

(will help anesthesiologist if one is necessary)

E What were the events leading up to the injury?


Document the mechanisms of injury. If the doctors and paramedics have some idea how the accident occurred, it will give them better ideas on what kind of injuries to look for. Did the person low-side and slide for a while on one of their sides? Did they go over the bars? Did they head-butt a solid object, such as a car? If they went over the bars, is there any obvious damage to the tank/handlebars which might indicate they hit the lower abdomen/groin area? This kind of stuff could help the doctors/paramedics.


Wallets, purses, rings


Do not go rooting through personal effects of the person. There should be no need to go through their wallet or purse for insurance information; the hospital personnel will deal with all of that. If there is some important reason that you need something from their wallet or purse, make sure you have at the very least a witness! Preferably a law enforcement officer if possible. If the person is conscious, ask first and if they say "no'' then don't push it.


If the person has rings on, the fingers may swell up and it is important to get them off. Consent is paramount if the person is conscious. Make sure there is at least one witness when removing them.


9a) Have person check pulse every 5 minutes & document it


Every 5 minutes the pulse should be checked at the wrist. If the pulse goes away at the wrist, check at the throat. This is a late sign of shock (see 10).


Write down the number of beats per minute and the time you took the measurement.


9b) Have person check breathing every 5 minutes & document it


Just like the pulse, check number of breaths per minute, the most reliable method being by placing your hand on the person's chest. Obviously if the victim is female it would be best to have another lady do this if at all possible.


Try to check their breathing rate without their knowing it. If they know you are counting their respirations, they may unconsciously alter their breathing rate.


Record this number along with the pulse every 5 minutes. Also note the type of breathing; fast, shallow, yodeling, gurgling, labored, easy, whatever. Even in layman's terms it may be useful to the paramedics.


10) Watch for signs of person going into shock


People invariably die due to shock. "you don't die by the gunshot wound but by the shock of the gunshot wound."


Signs of shock:

1. Inability to answer the 3 questions coherently (Who are you, etc.) (see 4)

2. Pale, cool, clammy skin

3. Delayed capillary refill press your fingernail so that it turns white. It should turn back to pink in less than 2 seconds. If it takes longer, that is not a good sign.

4. Radial pulse (pulse at the wrist) goes away but there is still a pulse on the neck


There isn't much we can do once someone starts going into shock, but a few minor things that may help:

1. Assure adequate breathing. This really comes with the AB of U-ABCC.

2. Loosen restrictive clothing.

3. Reassure victim.

4. Keep the person warm (not too hot though).

5. Elevate the feet ~6 in.

This is actually a judgment call since you shouldn't really do that with suspected spinal injuries.

6. Control bleeding.

This is probably obvious but if you don't realize the victim is bleeding and they are rapidly going into shock, this should tell you something.

7. Immobilize fractures.

This helps relieve pain and control bleeding.


11) Stop bleeding, using sterile bandages/dressings if available


Two important things here are to (a) stop any bleeding as soon as possible and (b) keep the wounds sanitary as much as possible. (a) is far more important than (b). Peripheral limbs are commonly lost to infection, but given the choice between stopping bleeding and using a nonsanitary cover, using the nonsanitary wrapping is preferred. Blood loss is bad. Wounds can be cleaned at a hospital.


If sterile dressings are not immediately available, women in the group may be carrying sanitary tampons, or Kotex napkins. Either can be used as a sterile dressing, although obviously the sanitary napkins would be superior.


Carry some sterile dressings with me in my tank bag, backpack or trunk space. They cost about $1 at your local drugstore. * Personally, I carry a Backpacker's First Aid kit. They are compact and don't take up too much space.


EXCEPTION: If there are cuts anywhere on the head, do NOT apply pressure. If there is a bone chip it is possible to push it into the brain. It is also possible that stopping the flow of blood or cerebral spinal fluid can lead to a buildup of pressure on the brain which is not good. You should still bandage the cuts loosely.


12) In case of femur injuries (extremely common in moto accidents), check for blood loss


Femur (the "thigh bone'') injuries are very frequent. There are huge arteries that run along the inner thigh; if these are compromised the person can bleed to death in a very short amount of time. It is important to minimize bleeding in this region! Use a pressure point above the cut to control blood flow out of the femur artery.


13) Ambulance arrives


Before the ambulance arrives, send people to the intersections in all directions to watch for/direct the ambulance.


When the ambulance arrives, it is important to stay out of their way as much as possible. Meet them and identify yourself as being "in charge'' and to be the person to contact if they need anything (bikes moved, people moved, whatever).


Make sure you:

1. Provide accessible parking for ambulance

2. Let EMT's know who's in charge

3. Give factual account of accident ("And then the car comes along at 154 feet per second and hits our buddy here!'' is probably not going to help anything). At 40 MPH, there are 60,000 units of kenetic energy. At 50MPH, there are 120,000. It is IMPORTANT for medical personnel to have an HONEST estimate of the speed and circumstances at the time of the accident.

4. Give them all of the information that has been written down (periodic vital signs and the three questions from U-ABCC at 5 minute intervals, personal information about the victim, etc.)

5. Give EMT's an honest evaluation of patient's drug/alcohol consumption

6. Stay back or leave if told

7. Give EMT's time to work


It is important to give the ambulance people the most accurate information possible! If the person just had 10 beers in the past hour, tell them! They are not the law enforcement officials and their only immediate concern is the safety of the patient. By underestimating, trying to cover up, or not telling the whole truth, you are only keeping important information away from them which may be necessary for the safety of the patient.


If the helmet was removed, send it along in the ambulance. The doctors may use the visible damage to the helmet to assist them in what to look for in terms of injuries.


If there were leaking fluids, let the medical personnel know. The fluids may have gotten on the patient and they need to know if there was oil, gas, brake fluid or something like that on an open wound.


14) At the hospital


Only have one or two people in the Emergency Room at a time. If the doctors have questions and neither of the people in the ER know the answer, send one of them out to the other people to find out the answer. Crowding everyone into the ER will only make it more stressful and difficult for the ER staff to do their jobs.


15) Dealing with law enforcement


As with the ambulance, when law enforcement arrives identify yourself as being "in charge''. Let them know that if there is anything they need, such as bikes moved or people moved, you are the person to talk to.


For them, walking on to a scene of bikers who are all in a very excited state is intimidating and this will help calm them and give them some easy way to control the bike people. Again, this is the psychological management.


It is obviously important to do whatever the law enforcement officials ask.


Before the officers do arrive, try to not move motorcycle parts any more than necessary! They may need to take accident scene notes and by moving things around you may confuse the situation for them. Parts will need to be moved off the road to avoid further accidents, but move them directly to the side so the law enforcement officials can determine roughly where it stopped if necessary. Try not to disturb the bike any more than necessary. (Electrics turned off, bike propped up vertically, etc.)


16) Thank you


A good number of the ambulance people are volunteers. Officers often get little or no recognition for helping out on the scene. It will cheer all of them up to no end to receive some kind of thanks for their help.


Any of the following are appropriate:

1. cards

2. in newspaper

3. in person


It will improve our image as bikers and rewards all those people who take time out of their own lives to help others. It is important!


17) Couple of miscellaneous notes


Leathers will have to be cut off by medical personnel. Be mentally prepared for it. If they do not cut off your clothes, they will not be able to do a proper assessment of the wounds and you are not being treated properly! If you are conscious and insist that they do not cut your leathers, they cannot by law. If you are unconscious, it is implied consent and they will remove them if in doubt.


Over 50% of fatalities are alcohol related. I know it's a cliche' but don't let friends drink and ride unless you're prepared to lose that friend.


Many accidents involve going over the handlebars. If your bladder is full, the extreme pressure can easily cause it to break. Make a pit stop by the bathroom before you leave.


In an emergency situation, psychological management is important. If a central person takes charge and is remaining calm, this will transfer to all of the other people on the scene and will help the victim far more than if everyone is overly excited and pumped with adrenaline. Take two deep breaths when you feel yourself losing it.


Take basic first aid and CPR courses! They are offered through the Red Cross and several other organizations periodically. Go with some riding buddies or get your club to have a class!


Nothing beats proper training

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