Whether we want to think about it or not, our chances of dying in an auto accident are great. In fact, the US Department of Transportation reported that 9,560 people died in traffic accidents in the first quarter of 2022. This is an increase of seven percent over the previous year! So, how do you avoid becoming part of this alarming statistic and what should you do after an accident has already happened?
The best thing we can do to prevent a car accident is drive defensively. What does this mean? This means that you should always be alert to what is happening around you. Don’t text and drive. Look both ways before pulling into traffic. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Anticipate what other drivers may do next.
Of course, sometimes, even if you do everything right, you can’t prevent an accident. Time and unforeseen occurrences befall us all, after all. For example, you can’t exactly keep a deer from jumping out into the road and doing thousands of dollars in damage to your vehicle. Therefore, it’s vital you know how to prepare for an accident before it happens.
Steps To Take Before an Accident Occurs
- Keep documentation such as your driver license, insurance, vehicle registration, and medical directives current, up-to-date, and readily accessible.
- Remove or secure any loose items in your vehicle so they don’t fly around and do further damage in case of a crash.
- Make sure you keep your mobile phone charged so you can call 9-1-1 and take photos at the scene following an incident.
- Store a first aid kit in your vehicle, as well as an emergency seat belt cutter/window breaker tool so you can escape your vehicle if the doors won’t open.
- Carry a pen or pencil and a small pad of paper in your vehicle at all times so you can write down other vehicle and witness information after an accident occurs.
8 Things Every Driver Should Do After an Accident
- Pull off the road. If your accident occurred at an intersection or on a busy stretch of road, such as a freeway, move your vehicle out of the way as quickly as possible. This will help avoid a secondary accident. If this isn’t feasible, turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights so others know to avoid the area.
- Relax. After making sure your vehicle is in park, take a few moments to get your bearings, take a breath, and examine your surroundings. Your vehicle may have struck a utility pole and live power lines may have fallen on or near your car. Make sure the area is clear before getting out of your vehicle to avoid further injury.
- Set up road flares or traffic triangles to alert oncoming traffic that there was an accident.
- Be a good Samaritan. If you are relatively unharmed, check on the others involved, including your passengers, those in the other vehicle(s), and surrounding pedestrians who may have gotten hurt. Call 9-1-1 if they are hurt and ask for an ambulance.
- Notify the police and your employer that you were in an accident. Even minor incidents should have an officer on hand to create a police report and properly document information that will help you when dealing with insurance companies later.
- Do not admit fault or apologize to anyone at the traffic scene. Be solicitous and kind to everyone involved, but let the police objectively judge the events that transpired. Even if you feel that you’re at fault, there may be something you missed, such as a missing road sign, a light that may be out, or countless other possibilities that you aren’t aware of.
- Be a good reporter. Write down as many details as you can, including full names of the other drivers and passengers involved; their insurance information; makes, models, and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved; and the contact information of all eyewitnesses.
- Take pictures. Photograph or video all vehicles involved as well as all other aspects of the scene, including road signs, traffic lights, and other details you may feel are pertinent to the incident. This will prove useful later as both the police and your insurance company investigate what happened.
Finally, one thing we all need to remember is that traffic accidents are scary things. Even experienced drivers and passengers may feel shaken after a crash. This can be caused by a sudden adrenaline rush. So, if you find yourself in this situation, remember to take a beat, relax, and catch your breath before taking action. You may have suffered an injury and not even know it, and the surge of adrenaline can mask your pain and your ability to think straight. Knowing what to do before and after an accident will help you calmly take action and prevent an already traumatic experience from becoming a fatal one.
This article is part of the FCM Safety series.