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Preparing for a serious emergency, such as the San Francisco limousine disaster in May, isn’t part of most chauffeur training programs. Considering fatalities and injuries in chauffeured vehicle accidents in recent years, we should emphasize making sure drivers know exactly what to do in the event of a collision or other incident that affects passenger safety.
Why We Should Train
In addition to the five women killed in the stretch limo fire, a Kansas City woman died after falling out of a party bus that same weekend, another woman died after tumbling out of a party bus in the San Francisco Bay Area last summer, and a New York teen died of head injuries a few years ago while sticking his head through a ceiling hatch as the bus passed under a bridge. As an industry, we need to not only operate in a safe manner but provide a level of preventative and responsive safety when something happens.
As much as passengers on a ship or plane would look to the captain in an emergency, our chauffeurs and drivers must project the same calm. When a big limo bus crashes with party goers dancing about in the back of the bus, things get ugly. It can happen to any operator at any time. Teach your chauffeurs to follow a logical plan in the seconds after the crash or incident.
Bakersfield, Calif., firefighter Chris Campbell helped LCT create a training exercise of a common accident scenario and outlined steps that should be taken immediately following a crash.
Staging A Training Accident
Bakersfield, Calif., Fire Department firefighter Chris Campbell and California Highway Patrolman Gary Johannesen helped LCT create a training exercise of a common accident scenario and outlined steps that should be taken immediately following a crash. Campbell formerly served as a motorcycle traffic officer before trading his gun for a hose. Johannesen is a 26-year veteran motorcycle traffic officer.
The Crash Scenario
Your limousine is making a left hand turn at a controlled intersection (signal lights) and while traveling through the intersection, the limousine is broadsided on the right side. The limousine is disabled in the lanes of traffic with five passengers in the rear. The right side door will not open. There is no fuel leak and the other driver is not injured. However, two of your passengers are complaining of back and neck pain. One of the injured also has cuts from broken glass on her legs and is bleeding. There are several bystanders at the intersection waiting to cross the street when the collision occurs.
Driver Training Steps
Before starting the response training, remind your chauffeurs to stop for just a second and take a big deep breath and remind themselves to stay calm, ask bystanders or non-injured passengers to assist where needed, and direct the passengers or bystanders if you need them to do something for you. People usually will respond in a crisis but may need to be asked, Johannesen says.
Step No. 1: Get help on the way. Whether dialing 911 or asking someone to do it, before you do anything else, make sure help is coming as you may not have an opportunity again and lose precious time.
Step No. 2: Assess the situation. Check that the vehicle is not on fire or losing fuel anywhere. If fuel is present, warn people around you so that a bystander does not ignite a flare near the vehicle. Make sure that any attempt to open passenger doors is done without risking the safety of the driver or the passengers who may lunge out the door when opened, Johannesen says.
Step No. 3: Secure your passengers. Check on them through the partition first, Johannesen advises. If it is safer to remain in the vehicle, leave them there. If it would be safer to get them to the sidewalk, do so unless anyone in the car is injured. If they are injured ask them not to move and enlist another party to hold them still until medical help arrives if needed. Provide any other emergency First Aid as needed and within your capability such as applying pressure on bleeding wounds.
Step No. 4: Information gathering. It is time to document the scene as best you can and get the names and phone numbers of those who witnessed, assisted or were involved in the accident. Take many photos of the scene from many different angles. Include close-ups of license plate numbers, skid marks, debris field, signal lights and vehicles. Pass out witness cards from the insurance accident kit and ask people to complete them. Have your passengers fill out witness cards as well. Use the diagram chart provided in the kit to draw the position of the vehicles on the diagram.
Step No. 5: Be quiet! Outside of giving a statement to a law enforcement officer about what happened, it is best that your chauffeur not discuss the accident with anyone else and certainly never speak to the media at the scene. If the scene is properly documented, law enforcement or the judicial system will determine what happened.