Road rash is a skin abrasion caused by scraping your skin against a rough surface, like a road. It’s often thought of in connection with bicycle accidents or motorcycle crashes. But road rash is quite common in car accidents as well. On its own, road rash can be a minor injury. If you’re injured in an accident where your skin has had direct contact with the road, you may suffer from road rash in connection with other, more severe injuries. 

What Causes Road Rash?

Road rash can occur with even the slightest fall. In addition to a bike crash or a motorcycle accident, there are any number of ways you could get road rash.

You might end up with road rash after:

It doesn’t take much for the rough surface of the road to take off some of your skin. Any contact of bare skin with pavement or gravel is likely to cause road rash.

How Dangerous is Road Rash?

Road rash injuries are also sometimes called “friction burn,” or “strawberries” due to the appearance of the skin after such an injury. The top layer of skin, called the epidermis, is peeled off, and there may be minor bleeding and exposed tissue. These injuries may be able to be treated at home with basic first aid.

Deeper abrasions can be more serious because they involve multiple layers of skin. Even mild cases of road rash can be extremely painful because it affects many nerve endings. Because road rash can leave a large surface area of skin open to bacteria, it’s important to watch for signs of infection. 

If you’ve been in an accident that caused road rash, it’s important to be aware that there could be underlying injuries that aren’t visible. Anytime you’ve had contact with pavement, there’s a possibility you could also have a broken bone, concussion, sprain, or other injury.

How to Treat Road Rash

If you have any doubt at all about the severity of your wound, you should seek medical treatment. For obvious superficial wounds with little to no bleeding, you can take several basic first aid steps to treat at home. Always keep an eye on the wound to watch for signs of infection.

Some steps to treat minor road rash can include:

  • Wash your hands before touching the wound
  • Carefully rinse and clean the affected area as soon as possible – don’t scrub too hard
  • Be sure to remove any debris from the wound, such as dirt or pebbles
  • Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the wound
  • Cover the wound with a clean bandage or gauze to help prevent infection
  • Change the bandage at least once a day
  • Check the wound for infection until it is fully healed 

If you see any signs of infection, seek medical attention.

Signs of infection include:

  • The wound isn’t healing
  • The abrasion is red or swollen
  • Increased pain
  • You have a fever
  • Pus or other discharge is coming from the abrasion

It’s best to err on the side of caution if you have any doubt about seeking medical advice. Untreated infection can be serious and can even result in death. Some studies recommend that serious road rash victims be treated by burn experts to improve healing.

Preventing Road Rash

There might not be much you can do to prevent road rash that might occur if you’re in a car crash. You expect your car to protect you in the event of an accident.

But, you can take some precautions to protect against road rash when riding a bike or motorcycle, such as:

  • Wearing protective gear
  • Taking extra precaution at intersections
  • Wearing high visibility clothing
  • Not riding on slick roads

Sometimes, taking a tumble is unavoidable. Some protective gear and careful riding can prevent serious injuries. If you are severely injured and someone else caused your injuries, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help.