Driver First Assist – A huge potential for saving life

What would you do if you arrived at the scene of a road traffic accident to find people injured or in danger and in need of assistance? With relatively little training you might be able to do enough to ensure somebody stayed alive until the emergency services arrived and delivered professional care. If nothing else, you could assess the situation and make an accurate 999 call that ensured the response of the emergency services was tailored to the incident.

Driver First Assist (DFA) is an organisation formed last year with the aims of saving the lives of those involved in road traffic collisions (RTCs) and raising the image of professional drivers. It could also save the nation money through enabling the emergency services to react appropriately to incidents and reopen roads more quickly as well as reducing the annual bill, currently £3bn, resulting from RTC deaths. Under development in partnership with the emergency services, DFA will run as a not for profit Community Interest Company (CIC) with representatives of the emergency services and major stakeholders such as Skills for Logistics involved in its management.

DFA is the idea of David Higginbottom who has been Business Development Director at the Road Transport Industry Training Board and General Secretary of the United Road Transport Union and at one time drove trucks for a living. He commented, ‘We believe we have an effective strategy to train a significant number of drivers, starting with HGV drivers, but moving on to include van, car fleet and bus and coach drivers over time. These are the drivers out there on the roads where accidents happen and as such are best placed to offer immediate assistance. Our vision is for hundreds – if not, ultimately, thousands – of trained personnel equipped to take action in the first critical moments after a RTC. Simple first aid techniques could do much to reduce casualties while the emergency services own ability to perform would be dramatically enhanced by receiving an onsite situation report the moment they arrive on scene’, he said.

Airway obstruction is thought to be a factor in between 39% and 85% of preventable pre-hospital deaths. A blocked airway will start to cause brain damage in most people after around three minutes and death in about four minutes. Set against this, the target time for an ambulance to arrive is eight minutes, longer in rural areas, and set to become even longer if traffic and congestion increase as they are predicted to do.

Already support for DFA has come from a number of leading organisations. These include: the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE), the NHS and Senior Traffic Commissioner, Beverley Bell among many others.

Training Day

Last week I attended a training day organised especially for members of the press at the London headquarters of transport law specialists DWF, another of DFA’s supporters. Conducting the training was someone who will be familiar to viewers of the reality television show, ‘Motorway Cops’, among others, PC Steve Rounds, Dip Ed, AMSOE, AMIRTE. A policeman with 30 years service, he has been with the Central Motorway Police Group since 2001. The objectives of the course were to provide those attending with the skills and knowledge to manage themselves within an RTC scene, sufficient to keep themselves safe, evaluate the crash scene, make a timely and accurate report including briefing the emergency services on their arrival at the scene. Beyond this, for those who felt able to do so, instruction in basic techniques to administer potentially lifesaving first aid were demonstrated and practised. A wider objective was to help create a community of respected professional drivers.

The course began with background information, before moving on to how to manage an incident scene including the use of dynamic risk assessment techniques and how to administer basic lifesaving first aid. Considerable emphasis was placed on the importance of accurately assessing what had happened, what the current position was and getting those details to the emergency services as quickly as possible, before doing anything else, including administering first aid. Throughout it was stressed that DFA volunteers should at all times have their own safety paramount in their considerations.

Incident management techniques covered included how to position your vehicle to best protect the accident scene without impeding access for the emergency services, how to accurately report your position and how to identify hazards. A useful acronym was SAD – survey, assess, disseminate.

First aid techniques included: checking for breathing and how to unblock airways (often tilting the head back will accomplish this), how to spot shock, how to identify a spinal injury, the different types of bleeding and how to reduce/stop them, hands only cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to get someone into the recovery position.

Useful acronyms were ABC – airways, breathing, circulation, and DRAB – danger (assess it), response (check for it), airway (open and clear it) and breathing (look listen and feel – is it normal?).

Useful tips

A few other key things worth remembering are that if there is an E in the top line of the orange Hazchem sign on a truck it means consider evacuating the area, and if you arrive at an accident and can protect the scene using your car, always park in line with the traffic, rather than diagonally as the police do, because while they have high visibility reflective panels on their cars, your lights will be less visible if they are at an angle to oncoming traffic. Remember too that there are marker posts every 100m on motorways, the details of which will enable the emergency service to accurately locate you, and that, away from the motorway network, ringing from someone’s land line will automatically give the call centre an accurate location, which is invariably not the case with a mobile telephone.

Many complain that the compulsory seven hours of training required under the Driver’s CPC is time wasted, but few would argue that the seven hours it takes to undertake the training necessary to become a DFA would be time wasted, and the bonus here is that it can count as seven hours towards your 35 hours. Obviously, there is no form of test for the CPC qualification, but if you want to also convert the training into full membership of DFA you do have to pass a short test at the end of the programme.

Last word

This was one of the more unusual journalistic assignments I have ever been on, the only one at which I have gained any form of qualification and it counted as seven hours of CPC training to boot! It taught me a lot and though I have never hesitated to make the call when it has looked as if it might be helpful to do so, should I ever be early at the scene of an accident in the future I will be much better equipped to make a decision that could be the difference between life and death for someone.

To find out more about First Driver Assist go to the website

By Stuart Jones

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