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First Aid in Europe: Many want to help, but very few know how

Press Release
Brussels, 19 March 2013

You are driving along a quiet road. Suddenly a car comes into sight - wheels up in the air, by the side of the road. The occupants are injured. What do you do? Stop and help, of course.  But while nearly two thirds of all European car drivers feel confident enough to give first aid, only 18 percent know what to do when they are the first to arrive at the scene of an accident. In other words, motorists tend to largely overestimate their first-aid skills.


This is the central finding of the survey carried out by the EuroTest consumer protection programme (made up of 18 FIA member Clubs in 17 countries) together with the Red Cross. The results are published the same day as the European Commission presents a new initiative on road injuries, while a Commission proposal on the pan-European ‘eCall‘ system is expected next month.


Among key results:

- 71% of the car drivers interviewed were not sure how to check the victim’s condition correctly.


- Just over two thirds would have made an emergency call, but only 50% of them indicated the correct European emergency number, 112.


- In practice, more than 80% were unable to perform proper CPR.


- One-third of the motorists interviewed said they had never attended a first aid course and some 22% had last attended a first aid course more than ten years


Jacob Bangsgaard, Director General of the FIA Region I office in Brussels, said: “The first minutes after a crash can be critical: it’s worrying that over 70% of car drivers aren‘t sure how to check the victim’s condition, and that even less can perform CPR.  Today‘s EuroTest results highlight the need for much improved first aid training for drivers Europe-wide.” Mr Bangsgaard added, “Automobile Clubs are already playing an important role in providing first aid training and raising awareness of the importance of post-crash care to their members, but the figures indicate that intitatives at national or European level should be made available to all drivers.”


On the prospect of a proposal on eCall being adopted next month, he said, “The deployment of life saving technologies like eCall, which will significantly speed-up and optimise the rescue operation, also play a vital role in improving immediate post-crash care. This technology should be made mandatory in all new cars across the EU as soon as possible.”


To improve basic awareness among European motorists and to contribute to the “post-crash pillar” of the UN Road Safety Global Plan, EuroTest publishes today also guidlines for Basic First Aid and a ‘how-to‘ guide on the emergency response chain (download here).




The emergency response chain (first on the scene)

First of all, there is the emergency response chain where the first person to arrive at the scene of an accident must be able to perform.

Just slightly more than one third of the motorists interviewed knew that they should ensure their own safety first, and less than 50% of the interviewees replied that the accident scene had to be secured. About the same number would have determined the condition of the injured person(s) or provided first aid right away. Just over two thirds would have made an emergency call.

This is good, but not good enough considering that a little more than 50% indicated the correct European emergency number, 112. Some 40% of the participants indicated a national emergency number, and around 11% did not even know an emergency number at all.          


Shocking: More than 71% of the car drivers interviewed were not sure how to check the victim’s condition correctly. Almost 75% answered that they would talk to the injured person to check the victim’s level of consciousness/responsiveness. Only about 50% of the participants would have checked for breathing. Just 45% would have checked the victim for severe bleeding or injuries.  


Life-saving measures (CPR, breathing, conscious/unconscious)

What is the right thing to do if the victim is unconscious and no longer breathing? Some 71% did not know exactly. While 75% of the motorists asked did mention Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), only about one third remembered that the victim had to be laid down on his/her back first. So much for theory. In practice, more than 80% were unable to perform proper CPR.


It is also essential to place a victim with a severely bleeding arm on his/her back. However, only 30% of the interviewees remembered this measure. As many as 80% would have applied a pressure bandage. Still, the bottom line is: Around three-quarters had no accurate knowledge.


The victim is unconscious, but breathing normally. How do I place the victim in the recovery position? The answer is simple: lay the victim on the ground and roll the person onto his/her side - which almost 70% of the interviewees carried out correctly in practice. However, only about 42% remembered to make sure to check and maintain an open airway. Consequently, only 36.5% correctly performed both measures together. 


Regular refresher courses necessary (training)

The findings of the survey are not really surprising considering that nearly one-third of the motorists interviewed said they had never attended a first aid course.

Some 22% had last attended a first aid course more than ten years ago. Only about one-third had attended a first aid course as a mandatory prerequisite for obtaining their driving license. At this point, a first look at a few countries seems worthwhile. In Portugal, Italy, Spain and Belgium, the number of motorists who had never attended a first aid course was much higher than the European average. The number was also remarkably high in France and Finland. These are all countries with no statutory obligation to attend a first aid course.


However, mandatory attendance is by no means a guarantee for first aid skills put into practice with confidence and competence, especially when the course took place quite some time ago. On the contrary: As the survey shows, motorists generally have certain fundamental skills. However, many of them are not sure how to carry out such complex life-saving measures as CPR. Consequently, we strongly recommend regular refresher courses.


Anyone can save lives

Even the best-trained, quickest rescuers may not be able to save the victim’s life if, for instance, severe bleeding is not stopped immediately. After all, applying a pressure bandage is no rocket science - if you remember how to do it. Anyone who does may gain valuable time until the arrival of the rescue services and may help to mitigate the consequences of an accident or even save someone’s life.   


Notes to the Editor:




- 200 car drivers each in 14 European countries

The survey involved interviews with car drivers only (200 each) in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, and the Czech Republic. The interviewees were divided up into three age groups (18 to 25; 26 to 59; 60 years and older) with approximately equal proportions of men and women. They had to answer a total of ten questions, including two with practical exercises. There were no pre-defined answers, as in a multiple choice method. Rather, most questions required more than just one answer.


- Interviews in busy places

The interviewers conducted their interviews with car drivers in the street between May and August 2012. Each national partner chose three different locations in their country with a very high traffic volume, e.g. motorway service areas or car parks at shopping centres. A balanced geographical distribution of the interview locations was essential.

At least two representatives of each national automobile club and of the Red Cross conducted the survey in these locations, setting up their own booths. The practical exercises were carried out on dummies or volunteers behind a screen to prevent potential further test subjects from gaining an advantage by watching.  


About EuroTest

Through EuroTest – an international testing programme for consumer protection, 18 automobile clubs in 17 countries, members of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), have been putting the quality and safety of mobility in Europe to the test since 2000 for the benefit of their members and all mobile consumers in Europe. The EuroTest partners have constantly called for a Europe where the mobile consumer can circulate freely using quality infrastructure and services safely.

Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Region I office
FIA Region I represents 106 Touring and Motoring Clubs in Europe, the Middle East and Africa from its Brussels office, which total more than 36 million members. The FIA represents the interest of these members as motorists, public transport users, pedestrians and tourists. The FIA’s primary goal is to secure a mobility that is safe, affordable, sustainable and efficient. With these aims in mind the work focuses on Road Safety, Consumer Protection, Environmental Protection, and the promotion of Sustainable Motoring.

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