TRAFFIC COLLISION CHECKLIST
When it comes to checklists that you hope to never use, this one takes the cake. It would be terrific if you could go your entire driving life without getting into an auto accident, or as we like to call it, an auto collision. But the sad truth is that you, despite how carefully you operate your vehicle, will in all probability be involved in at least one traffic collision during your life. Knowing what to do when that inevitable collision occurs can keep your headache to a minimum.
IF YOU'RE IN A COLLISION - DO's AND DON'Ts
Don't Hit and Run
Never leave the scene of the collision. Instead stop your vehicle and evaluate the situation. Otherwise you may face costly "Hit and Run" charges.
Do Move to Safety
Depending on the situation, you run the risk of getting into another accident. Turn on your hazard lights to warn other motorists and if possible, move your car safely to the shoulder or out of harms way. If you can't move your car, then exit your vehicle when safe and move to an area where you personally will not encounter traffic.
If you are trapped in your car, injured, or unable to think clearly then keep your seatbelt buckled and stay in your car.
Do Assess Any Injuries
First things first: Are you hurt? If so, be careful that you don't add insult to injury - wait for trained medical personnel to arrive on the scene and assist you. If you are okay, then check on other people involved in the crash. Help them if you can without overstepping your abilities, remembering that moving them in certain situations can actually be hurtful.
Do Notify Authorities
Laws vary from state to state, but most require you to call 911 or your local Highway Patrol when an injury is involved in a traffic collision. Also, most states require you to report your accident when a certain amount of damage has occurred. For example, in California, you must report an accident to the DMV when someone is injured or there is $1,000 or more in damages.
For more information on what to do in your state, find state DMV websites for all 50 states here: Accident reporting for your state at DrivingLinks.com
Do Leave a Note
If you're involved in a collision with a parked vehicle or someone's property but can't find the owner, make sure you leave a well attached note with your name, address, and phone number. In some states, such as California, you must then report the accident right away to the police or Highway Patrol.
Don't Leave an Animal to Die
Never leave an injured animal to die. If you kill or injure an animal, pull over safely and do your best to locate the owner, or if you can't, notify the nearest humane society or the highway patrol. Also, never move an injured animal yourself.
Don't Strand Your Vehicle
After an accident has occurred, don't leave your car, truck, or SUV on the road or highway. If safe to do so, drive it away. If not, have it towed away. If you don't, the police or highway patrol will have it removed and impounded at your expense.
Don't Leave Empty Handed
Make sure you exchange information with the other people involved in the collision, including other drivers, passengers, and potential witnesses. And be thorough; some less than savory drivers may offer up bogus information. Get the driver's full name, address, driver's license number (also note the state the license was issued in), birth date, and phone number, all preferably copied from their driver's license. Equally important, get the other driver's proof of car insurance information, their policy number, license plates, and vehicle registration information.
Don't Say Too Much
After the incident occurs it can be tempting to discuss the collision with the others involved. Don't! Anything you say about the collision can later be used against you when it comes to assess fault and settle damages. Simply exchange your contact information (as prescribed above) and save the accident talk for your insurance company and the police.
Do Document and Take Pictures
A great way to set the record straight is with pictures of the collision scene - after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Keeping a disposable camera in your glove box is smart, or having a camera phone works too. And don't be shy. Take plenty of pictures and capture everything from car damage and vehicle positions to road conditions and traffic signs. These may come in handy in court or even help your insurance company keep you out of court. If nothing else, you'll be able to make one interesting scrapbook.
Do Keep Your Insurance Company Posted
Call your insurance company as soon as possible and let them know what happened. They can help answer a lot of your questions as well as get the ball rolling on any claims that need to be filed. A quality auto insurance company should be on your side and will help you get through this tough time.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE AN ACCIDENT
If you're the first person to arrive on the scene, pull over and assist the best you can. Some states require this, but either way it's the right thing to do. When you pull over, make sure you do so very safely and leave plenty of room for emergency vehicles that will be arriving shortly.
If safe to do so, check those involved for any injuries. Also, look around the scene for sign of anyone thrown from their vehicle (perhaps in a ditch or bushes).
If possible call 911. If you don't have a phone, have another witness call 911 or send someone to find a phone. Be ready to transmit information to the 911 dispatcher: accident location and/or cross streets, number of injuries, etc.) Stay on the line with the dispatcher until they let you go.
If you have emergency triangles, set them out to warn other motorists of upcoming danger. Only use flares if safe (no fumes or gas leaks).
Only help people to the best of your ability. Unless the person is in a burning car, don't remove them from the vehicle of they appear to be injured. Moving them could actually worsen their condition.
If the car or truck is able to be moved and it is safe to do so, move the vehicle off the road and out of harms way.
LET'S RECAP: TRAFFIC COLLISION QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE
- Stop and evaluate the situation - don't hit and run
- Get to a safe place out of harms way
- Check yourself, then others for injuries
- Call 911 if there are injuries or substantial damages
- Exchange information with the other drivers and witnesses involved
- Take pictures and document the accident
- Notify your insurance company ASAP