Bystander Experiences at and after a Motor Vehicle Accident: A review of the literature


Bystander help
first aid
motor vehicle accident

How to Cite

Hall A, Wooton K, Hutton A. Bystander Experiences at and after a Motor Vehicle Accident: A review of the literature. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2013Nov.4 [cited 2022Aug.12];10(4). Available from:



To explore what was known about the experiences of bystanders both at the scene, and following a motor vehicle accident (MVA). Understanding these experiences will further elucidate the knowledge underpinning bystander’s action and their needs at the scene and in the hours, days, weeks and months following this event.


A search of Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), MedLine (OVID) and Informit was undertaken using a combination of the keywords: bystander, first aid, motor vehicle accidents, car crash, car collision, lay people and witness. Thirteen articles met the selection criteria and were included in the analysis. The World Wide Web (web) was subsequently searched in response to a gap in current research on bystanders’ experiences at and following a MVA. Systematic thematic coding was used in the extraction of patterns regarding bystander experiences during and after witnessing a MVA.


In the exploration of bystanders’ experiences during and after attending a MVA this review confirmed the presence of physical, emotional, cognitive and situational factors associated with bystander responses. Bystanders demonstrated that their response behaviours were determined by the nature of the emergency and the severity of perceived injury. In addition, bystanders weighed up the costs of helping and many felt morally responsible to offer assistance. Although there were no studies of long-term negative consequences exemplars from the web provided insight into ongoing psychological affects for bystanders.


This thematic literature analysis demonstrated the need for further research into the experiences of bystanders both during and following an MVA. Understanding bystander assistance in emergencies will allow health policy decision-makers to address the needs of both potential bystanders and those of actual bystanders during and post event.