Last year, a buddy and I were driving to the shooting range when we witnessed a terrible crash on the highway.
We stopped to help, of course. So did other people who were passing by. One man, confusing the steam billowing from the shattered radiator as evidence of fire, even managed to pull the door open from the twisted frame using brute strength alone. (We reached him in time, before he laid hands on the victim, and explained that it was a bad idea.)
Emergency services were called, and the cars passing by slowed down to gawk. Many people pulled over to the side of the road, asking if there was anything they could do. The response was so wide spread that there was a danger that the way would be blocked by the cars of amateur rescuers. I had to station myself next to the road, thanking everyone for their concern, but sending them on their way if they weren’t trained in rescue or medicine.
I was driving alone a few months later when another car accident occurred right in front of me, this time in a residential neighborhood. No injuries or deaths, although the damage to both vehicles was extensive.
I stopped to help, of course, and found the same situation. People driving by would ask if there was anything they could do. Those who lived near by not only phoned the authorities, but they came out of their homes and hustled down the street with first aid kits, bottled water, fire extinguishers and blankets. After determining that I didn’t need to administer first aid, my role became one of thanking the concerned and asking them to keep moving so the police and tow trucks could get through.
Are the people in Columbus, Ohio just more noble people than those living elsewhere? I find that to be impossible to believe.
David Hyman discusses how it always makes the news when people who could save lives stand by and do nothing, but that incidents when people step forward are less well publicized. He is interested in how laws which impose a duty to rescue affect behavior, and so is wondering about the frequency of rescue vs non-rescue.
I think this is going to be very difficult, since I bet there are many times when there is an attempt to rescue when the victim cannot be helped.
Just in my own two direct experiences mentioned above, at least a score of people dropped what they were doing and made good faith attempts to safeguard lives. These attempts were ultimately fruitless because there simply wasn’t anything anyone could do to help. But does anyone think there are records kept of these spontaneous expressions of concern?
It appears to me that Mr. Hyman will be able to find solid data on the number of times witnesses stood by and allowed victims to perish. He will also be able to find out how often a person in distress was rescued by passers by. But I think it is more common by far that average people stepped up to do what they could, and found that there was no hope. There isn’t going to be too much info concerning such incidents.
And that is a great pity.
(Hat tip to Glenn.)