Almost 16,000 car accidents occur in the U.S. every day. Out of these accidents, about 35,000 people will die every year.
One of scariest events a person can experience is a car accident. Even if it’s only a simple fender bender, your heart starts pounding and emotions run high.
When it’s the most difficult to think clearly is when you’ll need to make some important decisions.
Who should you call? What information do you need? What are your legal obligations?
This article will cover 5 key steps to follow after a car crash. We’ll also look at a few tips to be a safer driver in general.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people do not stop after a car crash.
Legally, though, you must stop even if you’re afraid of getting in trouble with the police or insurance. Make sure to pull out of traffic. You can park on the side of the road or even in a parking lot if you can.
After you stop, make sure to turn off the engine. You don’t want any sparks flying if there’s leaking gasoline.
Next, turn on your hazard lights. This lets other drivers know to slow down and be cautious.
2. Call the Police
Once you’ve stopped, it’s time to call the police.
Check the scene to give an accurate report to 911. Is there fire? Are people injured? Is the road blocked?
It might seem silly, but make sure to check yourself for injuries too. Sometimes you might be hurt, and your body’s adrenaline level is keeping you from feeling pain.
If the damage is not major, you may not want to call the police. That’s fine, but if you plan to file an insurance claim, a police report will help you.
You must call the police under the following circumstances:
- Someone is injured
- The other driver doesn’t stop
- The other driver has no insurance
- The other driver seems to be drunk or high
- You think the other driver may have caused the wreck on purpose
These are occasions where it will benefit you to get the police involved.
3. Get the Details
Everyone knows you’re supposed to get the other driver’s information, but what do you need exactly?
Make sure to get the following:
- Driver’s Name
- Phone Number
- Insurance Company
- Car Registration
- Car Owner’s Name
- Passenger’s Names
If the driver of the car is not the car’s owner, make sure to get the same information for the car’s owner.
If a business truck is involved in the car crash, write down the company information as well.
Legally, you must share your own information too.
4. Write Notes
You may think that you’ll never forget anything after a traumatic car crash. However, our memories of traumatic events are often worse than of everyday things.
As soon as you can after the accident make detailed notes. These are things you want to record in your notes:
- Address or mile marker of the location
- Make, model, color, and license plate of the other car
- Directions of travel
- Road condition
- Vehicle damage
- Driver and Passengers’ names
- Witnesses’ names and phone numbers
- Traffic conditions
- Road markings and signs
Take as many pictures of the scene as you can too. Even getting pictures of traffic signs and the road itself can be helpful later.
Drawing sketches of the accident can also be good. A picture can jog your memory if you get fuzzy on the details later.
5. Call Your Insurance Company
Some people think that if you don’t want to make an insurance claim, you don’t need to inform your insurer. That’s not true. You need to inform them, even if you don’t want to make a claim.
Your insurance company probably has time limits too. Make sure to call them as soon as you can to avoid any problems or fees.
They will want to know the following information:
- Your policy number
- Your license number
- Your license plate number
- The registration number of cars involved in the accident
- The other driver’s name, address, and phone number
- The other driver’s insurance information
Make sure you have all this information available before you call your insurance agency.
Be as calm as possible. After a car crash, people are often shaken up and emotional.
Take deep breaths to slow your heart rate and relax yourself. This will help you think clearly and take care of the situation in the best possible way.
Don’t lose your temper. Even if the accident is completely the other driver’s fault, it will help no one to get in a shouting match. It also might become a problem when the police arrive and everyone is yelling.
Never apologize or say you’re sorry. Of course, it’s polite to start the conversation by saying you’re sorry for the part you played in the car crash. In this situation though, an apology can be used later to show you were at fault.
In this case, it’s best not to be polite!
If you hit an object, but not another car, try to inform the person who owns it. For example, if you hit a fence, go knock on the homeowner’s door.
If you don’t know how to find the owner, leave a note where it will be seen. Don’t just leave! If a business like this company has a camera and catches the accident with your license plate number, you will be in legal trouble!
Make sure not to sign any paperwork unless it’s from your insurance company or the police. You don’t want to accidentally claim fault or waive your right to a lawsuit.
Car Crash Causes
Finally, let’s look at some common causes of car accidents. These are things you want to watch for and report to the police or your insurance if you notice them when you wreck.
- Distracted driving
- Bad weather
- Vehicle failures
The most important thing you can do to prevent accidents is to be a safe, conscientious driver.
Here are some tips to help you be a safer driver. Remember, you also want to watch for these in other drivers to prevent a car crash:
- Leave plenty of space in between you and the car you are following
- Be extra careful in stop and go traffic
- Watch out for faulty brake lights in front of you; give them extra space
- Don’t text while driving
- Don’t talk on your phone
- Don’t get lost in your thoughts
- Don’t stare at the scenery you’re passing
- Don’t get distracted by your passengers
- Don’t eat or drink while driving
- Don’t try to brush your hair or put on make-up
- Don’t watch videos or try to read
- Don’t drink or take any medications that impair driving
By following these strategies and watching for others who aren’t, you’ll hopefully have a safer time on the road.
Now that you know what to do after an accident and how to prevent car accidents, stay safe!
If you’re looking for more information on driving safety, check out this article on employee safety driving rules.