Concerns over motorcycle CRASH Card

CRASH Card motorcycle helmet

Riders will be asked to insert a free CRASH Card filled with their medical information inside their helmet to help emergency services in the event of a crash.

The Caution Road Accident Serious Crash (CRASH) Card will be accompanied by a red-dot “Do not remove helmet” sticker to be placed on the outside of the helmet corresponding to where the card is inserted inside.

CRASH card red dot sticker
CRASH card red dot sticker

The scheme was initiated by Hornsby Council, north of Sydney, and follows a similar scheme created by the Ambulance Motorcycle Club in the United Kingdom.

It is now used by 1.9 million riders around the world and is due to be rolled out nationally with registration notices following support from police and ambulance services.

First Aid For Motorcyclists (FAFM) founder Roger Fance says he is “very supportive of the general intent to improve motorcycling safety”, but has serious concerns, especially the “Do not remove helmet” sticker.

“An unconscious rider wearing a full-face helmet and an obstructed airway will die if the helmet is not removed immediately and the appropriate steps undertaken to attempt to re-establish normal breathing,” he says.

“The response via NSW Ambulance is that the public should call 000 and take instructions on what to do. This is, of course, the correct advice if communication can be established. However vast areas of Australia have no mobile coverage.

“There are over 10,000 mobile blackspots around the country. Also what if the helper has no mobile phone or the battery is dead?”

Roger says that because the CRASH Card information is inside the helmet it may not be accessible to the first person on the scene.First Aid for Motorcyclists course Crash card

“The quicker this information becomes available to emergency services via 000 the better. It would be much better for the CRASH Card to be held in an accessible place such as on a jacket sleeve or even in a wallet, definitely not the inside lining of a helmet.”

Other systems for carrying vital medical information and emergency contacts also exist, including a USB Key invented by a Perth rider.

Riders are advised to keep their medical records and emergency contact details with them whenever they ride. Apart from the CRASH Card and USB Key, there are also smart phone apps, wrist bands, ID cards for your wallet and stickers for your helmet or bike that you can use.

Roger is also concerned that the CRASH Card advises motorcyclists not to attempt to remove another rider’s helmet on their own, as it is a skill which takes two people and is practised by trained personnel.

“Whilst it is certainly ideal that a helmet is removed by two people who have been trained correctly, this ideal situation may not be available,” he says.

“We teach a one-person helmet removal to address this worst-case scenario of someone who has no help available and must remove the helmet immediately to avoid the casualty dying. This is a case of life over limb.”

FAFM provides course participants with a helmet sticker that says “Only remove helmet if not breathing normally”.

CRASH Card - FAFM helmet sticker
FAFM helmet sticker

He says the CRASH Card roll-out should be delayed until the issues he has raised with the authorities are addressed.

Seems a simpler system would be a sticker on your helmet that says something like: “Medical information available in wallet”.

  • What do you think of the CRASH Card? Have your say in the “Leave a reply” section below. 

15 Comments

  1. Lots of differing ideas here so I doubt there’s a one fix for all situations.
    It has always worried me when attending Senior First Aid courses as part of my work requirements that the agencies who put themselves up as the subject matter experts and dish out this training don’t know very much about motorcycle helmets at all.
    When it gets to the part about there being an imperative to remove the helmet if the patient isn’t breathing properly, they are completely ignorant to the fact that most “Modular Helmets” are significantly different to normal full face helmets. If the average joe, being the first responder at an accident scene were to attempt to remove a properly fitting modular helmet without knowing how to open it and doing so first, could potentially to do the patient serious harm if he or she is unconscious. I’m reasonably confident that the great guys and gals in our Paramedic Teams out there on the roads are trained by real experts and are not as ignorant to the differences in helmet mechanics that these so called expert First Aid training providers are…..

  2. Back in 2007, I was following my now bride when she had a moment and broke her TRX. As a result she sustained bleeding on the spinal cord, a fractured transverse process on the C5 and a hip injury. Obviously, I was with her within seconds with other experienced riders. She quickly regained consciousness and complained of a sore neck but had feeling in her extremities. Breathing was normal. All present were cognisant of the remove or not remove issue. Within a few minutes anxiety set in and she wanted the full face helmet off. As much as we tried to calm and reassure her anxiety turned to panic. So to calm her and prevent movement as a group we devised a plan to remove the helmet whilst restricting neck movement with a rolled up towel as an improvised cervical collar. The back and shoulders were also supported. The ambos and hospital staff said we did the right thing. All I’m saying is there is no single answer to the helmet issue. Anyhoo she’s all better now and we live happily ever after. My goodly wife doesn’t ride any more and that’s fine.

  3. All interesting comments…but when it comes to being there in the situation, on many levels, no two will be the same.
    Firstly, I have been at a scene, when a helmet was removed, subsequently the person died. Allegedly this was due to original injury. Also the person was unresponsive at the time and where we were the closest ambulance was 40kms away.
    Secondly, I was a person who after having a massive enduro crash and suffered multiple fractures demanded persons standing by to remove my helmet (as I physically couldn’t), as I was extremely winded and began hyperventilating.
    If we think about it, when someone is unresponsive, the next thing we do is check for breathing. To do this we can look for a rising of the chest, listen for breaths and feel for a pulse. This can be done in one assessment if done correctly.
    Given the ongoing concerns and conflicts regarding removing a helmet, I think it would make more sense and be more practical to display a medical alert type accessory on the person, perhaps as one commenter Pete said on his ‘dogtag’, around the neck. Even in a boot is a good place. This would negate any scary insurance, death causing legalities. And I agree also when navigating a moral and legal battle when blamed for killing someone when removing the helmet. Due to the liability stuff these days and hence second guessing, It would also alleviate the time wasted on the sideline with ‘should we, shouldn’t we’ decisions, while someone is laying on the ground needing airway management. Although it could be said that we are either breathing, or that we are not, when it comes to airways it is complex depending of injury and the cause, so to me, its an extremely grey area and when the experts analyse each and every manouvere, it is best to air on the side of caution. Wear a necklace or bracelet. Very easy to locate and identify when assessing for breathing. Personally inside my helmet I have a label that reads NFR.

  4. Interesting article and varied opinions above aside, if stickers are to be placed on helmets then we will be waiting for another amendment to the helmet laws…as we are not able to paint our helmets nor add stickers.

  5. The important point is that the information is made available and is always stored in a spot (and in a form) that paramedics can access. Inside a helmet is the one place fits all the criteria.

    I think the concerns about helmet removal while valid, are being overcooked and are insufficient to invalidate either the card or the warning sticker.

    The first instinct for the untrained bystander is “quick, get the helmet off!” regardless of the rider’s injuries and you can be sure they wont be careful about how they take it off.

    This story on this site is worth re-reading: http://motorbikewriter.com/cafe-crash-spurs-first-aid-offer/

    …“When I got up there it was obvious they had just taken his helmet straight off despite
    the fact that his eyes had rolled back in his head,” …

    Those are the people who need to be told not to take a helmet off – not trained paramedics.

    I attended the launch of the card (purely because they chose a very picturesque spot) and and among the speakers was Superintendent Jason Stone of the NSW Ambulance Service who made it very clear that he fully supports the card (and sticker). While someone like FAFM may have reservations, I think Superintendent Stone’s opinion out-trumps FAFM.

    Superintendent Stone also related a personal anecdote of how he once attended a motorcycle that had crash off the road and found (an older) man who despite serious injuries walking walking around talking incoherently and appeared to be completely intoxicated. His wife who was the pillion, was also seriously injured but luckily was still conscious. She told Superintendent Stone that her husband was diabetic and also extremely allergic to the only pain relief the Superintendent carried. A diabetic having an episode will appear to be drunk. The wife’s information saved the man’s life. What if she had not been there or had been unconscious?

    You can get a free crash card here:

    http://www.hornsby.nsw.gov.au/community/common-enquiries/traffic-and-transport/motorcycle-crash-card

  6. As a doctor working in pre-hospital trauma care my reaction when I heard about the Crash Card was similar- I think the information would be useful to responders but I think it reinforces dogmatic thinking about helmet removal. I agree that any sticker on a helmet stating not to remove helmet also needs to say ‘if breathing normally’. Airway trumps C-spine.

    1. Are you really a doctor?
      DEATH can result from injury to the C Spine.
      A helmet may protect your skull but unfortunately it makes C Spine injuries more likely and more severe. So removal of the helmet without good reason and extreme care is a bad idea and the warning sticker is merely a reminder of this fact not a prohibition.
      Aside from that I myself and I’m sure most riders would prefer to die of asphyxiation than live as a quadriplegic!
      On a side note I have serious concerns about the protocols ambulance crews are given for fitting collars, after being rear ended I sat waiting for an ambulance.
      I stood talking to the police etc and when the ambulance crew went to fit the collar I had to lay down first. I suggested that they fit it before as to me it seemed it would be safer easier and reduce the risk of injury but no I had to lay down and I can tell you I am glad there were no fractures because if there were I’d be in a wheelchair or dead. What idiot decided that you had to lay down first to fit a collar? if they patient is up right fit it first!

  7. I’ve been riding with a crash card in my helmet since I started riding. They are not particularly well known about in Britain. I had a memorable ambulance ride telling the paramedic all about crash cards, mostly because I got it out of my helmet myself to retrieve phone number of my next of kin.

    Over here, “don’t remove a helmet” advice is pervasive. There are even questions in the driving/riding theory tests about it.

    I am a first aider and have done motorcycle specific courses. Without actually being a paramedic or forking out huge sums of money, training to remove helmets is not accessible. The often repeated advice is removing a helmet is difficult and you are more likely to cause further injury and expose oneself to legal threat and as such should never be attempted without insurance.

    Importantly, the attitude here is the cards aren’t for first responders, but to aid in identifying the casualty once primary care has been established. The role of identifying a casualty more often than not falls to the police here and it’s not treated as a priority.

    The rationale for carrying ID in your helmet is wallets and suchlike get stolen or forgotten and you always have your helmet. With a drivers licence in my wallet and insurance documents under the seat, I’d have to be in a hell of a crash to require the use of my crash card.

    1. I don’t believe that the information should be stored in the helmet. A wrist band would be a better way to go or some thing like that.

  8. The concerns are silly ! The warning about not removing the helmet is correct as a serious spinal injury can result in DEATH if some idiot removes a helmet incorrectly. The prompt is a warning to use some common sense and take a moment to think about the situation rather than what has happened in the past where a rider has had their helmet virtually ripped off by a well meaning fool and wound up dead or a quadriplegic. Inside the helmet is a good place for the information card as the helmet is often kept with the rider so it can be examined for impact sights, the impact information can be vital in treatment.
    Even with a full face helmet steps can be taken to ensure a person is able to breath without removing the helmet.

  9. Good idea, but to make the system much more efficient and constantly up to date, you would have all registered Motorcycle owners on a data base that any response team can access with finger print technology. This would be updated on a six month or twelve month basis, that would cover any changes to a person medically. Education regarding the removal of a helmet, should be employed with first aid training or general education covered in schools and the likes. Similar to educating a person not to be moved in a car accident unless absolutely necessary.

  10. I have a tag i wear around my neck ,stainless steel
    and engraved with my medical condition cheap
    effective , no- tech, and indestructible

  11. What about a small bar coded sticker on the outside of the helmet that can be read with a smart phone. I’m sure all ambulance drivers will have a smart phone on them. Could make the information an Australian standard.

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