I witnessed a car accident last night and stopped to help. The situation kind of made me laugh a bit, but only because everything was so ridiculous. Despite that, how everybody reacted made me realize that a lot of drivers -old and young- have no idea what to do in the situation.
So here, have a PSA.
1. Unless your state/country says otherwise, do not move your car. Yes, initial reaction is to move your car off to the side of the road to clear the way for traffic, but this can be a bad thing. I was in a four-car pile up and this tow truck driver stopped by to move our cars off the side of the road. When the patrol officer arrived, she was extremely angry that he had done that because she couldn’t see the accident itself. He literally separated two of the cars by forcefully pulling them apart - this then dragged out later processes by over a year. So unless it’s just a small fender bender or you’re required to by law, do not move your car.
2. Call 911 (or your emergency services). Calmly inform them that you’ve just been in an accident, you don’t know if people have been injured, and then your location. This will send the highway patrol, ambulance, and fire truck. Don’t worry about inconvenience - this is their job. The accident I witnessed didn’t have injuries and without checking the other car, the first car automatically said that nobody was hurt. Don’t ever say that because you don’t know.
3. Call anyone that knew you were driving and was expecting you. Don’t have someone that was expecting you? Call a friend that you know if available and close by - especially if you’re alone. Accidents can be scary and it sucks going through it alone. If it’s hot out, ask them to bring you (and other drivers involved) some water so nobody gets dehydrated. If you’re lucky enough to have an accident by a restaurant, you can have someone (not involved in the accident) quickly run inside and gets cups of water for people.
4. Walk to the other car(s) involved and ask these questions. Are you okay? Is anybody hurt? Can I please get your insurance information? Your insurance company will need their information, so get their names, numbers, car make/model/year/color/etc. Also once they give you their phone number (or a good contact number), inform them immediately that you are going to call it to make sure that you took the number down correctly. Do not trust that they will give you the right one. If they demand to know why you’re calling it now and you aren’t comfortable with telling them that you just want to make sure, just tell them that you have trouble with phone numbers and don’t trust yourself. Yes, this is putting you a step down, but if it’s that over your safety, then go for your safety.
5. Take an insane amount of pictures. Take a picture of where your car was hit, where their car was hit, BOTH license plates, and don’t be afraid to get a picture of the other driver/passengers either. You will need all of this information later and it also helps with memory. If the accident was road related, take pictures of the road, skid marks, obstructions - anything.
6. Do not argue with other people involved. This helps nothing. In the accident last night, the driver of the car that was hit came out, extremely angry and catty. She was very aggressive and immediately started to fling blame around. The two people in the other car got out and were trying to diffuse the situation with “We both have broken cars, can we please calm down” and this girl still went off. Do not do this. If the other driver is doing this to you, get back in your car and lock the doors until the police arrives. If you have yet to get pictures of information, you can do that while the officer is on scene - tell him that you are uncomfortable because the other driver was aggressive to you. If he doesn’t seem to care, pick up your phone and call 911 again - tell them that you were in an accident, the other driver is extremely aggressive to you, and officer on scene has not tried to diffuse the situation. Do not be afraid to bring this to others attention.
7. If you think you may be injured, say you need to go to the hospital. If the ambulance is there, they can check you out on scene. But if they are not there, and you seriously think you might have gotten injured, say something. Don’t hide it. You might feel pain a few hours or days later as well, but know that this might also be the tension finally releasing from your muscles - I freaked out when this happened and thought that I had been hurt and not said anything, but then my roommate at the time gave me a massage and I realized what had happened.
8. If you were the driver, get back behind the wheel immediately after and drive. If you were the passenger, get back in the same position and ride. It’s terrifying to drive again after you’ve been involved in an accident - I cried the first time I did and all that happened was I went in circles. My old roommate had her car flip and screamed at me as I all but forced her back into a driver’s seat the day of her accident. Three days later, she gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever gotten from her and thank me for doing that because she was terrified that she would get into another accident. You can’t live in fear. Things happen. Driving (or riding in a car) is pretty much a given these days - there’s no point in being afraid of it after an accident. Get back in with people you trust, take a deep breath, and take a few short drives. If it’s just around your neighborhood, fine. Then expand that to the corner store. Then your favorite place to eat. Then further. Then oh look - you’re driving again! Believe me, this is the hardest part of the accident process.
9. Inform your insurance agency immediately. Tell them what happened, tell them when the police report will be available, and then give them everything you know. If your car needs an appraisal for repairs, do it immediately. Tell them everything that changed on your car due to the accident. You’d be surprised at how much is there. One thing I never mentioned after one of my accidents was my alignment was always out - the repair place couldn’t figure out how it never seemed to be fixed and that really sucked. It was about $80 every three months until that car finally died - don’t do that. If something pops up later that you think might be linked to the accident, contact your insurance company immediately.
10. Do not be stupid and stare at an accident. Yes, we’re all curious, but do not watch an accident as you drive past. My current roommate was in an accident and two separate instances someone was watching her on the side of the road and caused another accident.
Anything I missed?