One of the most common emergencies related to car crashes is, of course,
bleeding. There are several things that you can do to minimize damage before an
emergency medical crew can reach you. A bleeding victim should be laid flat on
her back with her feet raised. If possible, raise the wound above heart level.
If you suspect a head, neck, or back injury, though, do not move the victim at
all. Apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or with your hand.
If bleeding still does not stop, apply pressure to an arterial pressure point
while keeping direct pressure on the wound. When the bleeding stops, apply a
In some cases, accident victims will be stuck in a wrecked car for hours before
an emergency crew can get them out. Some people in this situation will be
susceptible to claustrophobia and will panic. If you have a tendency towards
claustrophobia, you might consider carrying a small supply of valium at all
times. This prescription drug alleviates panic from claustrophobia and is also
very handy for airplane rides and in case of broken-down subway cars or
elevators. Another option is to practice deep-breathing meditation, as
described in books such as Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. With practice,
this technique can be a wonderful antidote to claustrophobic panic.
Tetanus is a dangerous nerve ailment caused by the toxin of a common bacterium,
Clostridium tetani. Being cut by the body of an automobile is one of
many ways to contract tetanus. Without treatment, tetanus can lead to sustained
muscle spasms, including the infamous "lockjaw" and often death. If you're
unable to wash the cut with soap and water, at least try to have an antiseptic
or antibiotic ointment on hand at all times. Most importantly, though, be sure
that you have had your tetanus vaccination followed by a booster shot at least
every ten years.
Seat belts and airbags notwithstanding, a violent car crash sometimes results
in teeth being knocked out—tooth avulsion. Even an adult's tooth that is
knocked out can sometimes be reimplanted if it isn't broken, but only if you
act quickly. If possible, handle the tooth by the crown only; do not rub or
scrape it to clean it; gently rinse it if you have clean water available; and
try to replace it in the socket and bite down gently on gauze or a moist cloth.
If you can get to a dentist or hospital within two hours, your tooth might be
Often the last thing that people think about in the wake of an automobile
accident is the danger from other cars. Too often, people trying to fix or move
their own car, or helpful motorists stopping to help others, are hit by other
drivers who cannot see them. If possible after an accident, get your car well
off the road as quickly as possible. Try not to stand too close to the road.
It's a good idea to keep flares in your trunk, so that you can set them up to
warn oncoming drivers. And keep in mind, especially on dark roads, that what
seems like an obvious catastrophe to you may be nearly invisible to someone
driving fast and expecting no trouble.
Escape Through Time |
Survivor Stories |
Pioneers of Survival |
Teacher's Guide |
Site Map |
Editor's Picks |
Previous Sites |
Join Us/E-mail |
About NOVA |
Site Map |
PBS Online |
NOVA Online |
© | Updated November 2000
Support provided by
For new content
visit the redesigned