By Audrey Sellers
The average American driver clocks plenty of time behind the wheel — about 17,600 minutes every week. All that time on the road amounts to about 14,260 miles a year per driver, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
While most of these trips are thankfully uneventful, accidents happen. You might get sideswiped, rear-ended, or caught up in a chain-reaction crash. When you’re involved in an accident of any kind, you may feel a mix of emotions, from shock or anger to guilt or fear. However, remaining calm is important, especially if anyone is injured.
Staying calm after a collision can help make a stressful situation more manageable. Read on for some quick pointers on how to handle a car crash.
What to Do on the Scene
If the accident has just happened, check to see if anyone is hurt and call 911 if needed. Then, move your vehicle out of traffic to a safe place. Put it in park and turn it off.
Never Accept Blame or Liability
It’s best to provide only the necessary information and remain polite and helpful. It may turn out that the other driver was at fault, so only discuss the incident with the police, your insurance provider, and medical professionals.
Contact the Police
It’s smart to call the police even if you’re involved in only a minor accident. They can help block off the area if necessary and collect information from all the drivers. If you intend to take legal action, you can request a copy of the police report. Also, when police are on the scene, they can test if the other drivers are under the influence.
Get Crucial Details
While you wait for the police to arrive, you can gather important details, including insurance information, the names and contact information of the other drivers, and any witnesses.
You should also take photos of the vehicles involved, including license plates. If any property damage occurred, document this as well. Try to get photos from many different angles and ensure your pictures are clear.
What to Do After the Accident
Get in touch with your insurance provider to file an accident claim. If you require medical treatment following the accident, keep detailed notes of your injuries, medical visits, and treatments. Also, keep track of any missed work due to your injuries.
You may also choose to call a lawyer following the crash. Share all your information with your attorney, including the police report, insurance information, and documented medical expenses.
Being involved in a car accident can be stressful and traumatic. You can get through the ordeal a little easier by following the tips above.
If an accident happens, you can be prepared by keeping these items in your vehicle:
- A first-aid kit. You can buy a ready-made kit at most pharmacies or create your own. Include things like gauze pads, adhesive bandages, disposable gloves, and antiseptic wash or wipes. It’s also a good idea to include a pain reliever like aspirin along with bottled water.
- A blanket. This can help keep drivers or occupants warm while waiting for help to arrive. A blanket can also help calm someone who may have gone into shock following an accident.
- Road flares. These help alert other drivers that your vehicle is disabled due to an accident or a breakdown. They’re especially helpful at night or during heavy rain, which can make it hard to see.
- A flashlight. Keeping a flashlight handy can help you in many circumstances, from changing a flat tire after an accident to providing light when you’re exchanging information with other drivers.
- An auto escape tool. Choose one that you can clip to a visor or attach to your keychain. Should your vehicle become submerged in water, you can use the tool to break the car windows underwater. You can also use it to cut through a seatbelt if you are trapped.