A harsh reality of driving is that, no matter how careful you may be, accidents can and will happen. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), there were 5.8 million traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2008. Do you know what to do when life throws you this wicked little curve ball? We want to help make this unpleasant situation a little less stressful for you with a few tips.
Prepare for the accident before it happens.
Make sure you have a pen, notepad and your insurance information available in an easy-to-access place in your vehicle. You may want to consider keeping an “emergency car kit” in your trunk that contains key items like: road hazard triangles, disposable camera, duct tape, water, flashlight, first aid kit, etc… Maintaining an attitude of preparation will go a long way toward keeping you calm in the event you are involved in a collision.
Should you find yourself in an accident it is imperative that you remain as calm as possible. A clear head will provide you with a greater ability to think through the steps you take immediately following a collision.
The health of those involved in the collision should be the priority so you need to check for injuries. If you are unsure at all regarding the physical well-being of any of the parties involved in the accident, call an ambulance.
If there are no serious injuries and the accident is minor, move the cars out of the way of traffic. When possible, you want the cars in a safe place. A minor collision can quickly generate life-threatening injuries if you remain in the flow of traffic—get out of the way and turn on your hazard lights. If you have hazard triangles or road flares, put them down behind the vehicles to make yourself more visible.
Call the police even if there are no injuries in the accident and the cars are drivable. Be prepared to clearly communicate where you are located. Take note of the road you are on and the nearest cross-streets or exits (if you are on a highway). Once you have contacted the police, you need to call your insurance agent to provide notification of the accident.
Use your pen and notepad to begin making notes while the details of the accident are fresh in your mind. Record the other driver’s information along with damages done to the vehicles and how the accident occurred. If appropriate, it may be helpful to take pictures of the scene of the accident. As you speak with the other driver, do not claim blame for the collision even if you feel it was your fault and do not assign blame to the other driver. Any detailed discussion of the accident should be restricted to your insurance agent and the police.
The police and the insurance companies bear the responsibility of fully investigating the accident. Make sure you answer their questions honestly, even if your answers are a bit embarrassing. Be cooperative and forthright in your communication. Of the 5.8 million accidents in 2008, 70% resulted in damage to property only. If you are involved in a non-injury accident, be very thankful that you are not part of the other 30%. Be safe and drive carefully.