There are almost 250 million cars and trucks in the U.S., according to IHS, a company that collects statistics about cars. So it’s not surprising to read that the government recorded 6.1 million car accidents in 2014.
If you’ve been in an accident you know it’s hard to think straight. Your adrenaline is surging. You’re worried someone is hurt or the car is wrecked.
Just as Driver’s Ed taught you to drive safely, Accident Ed teaches you how to handle an accident intelligently. Learn how to stay cool when everyone else is freaking out.
Lesson 1: Be Prepared for an Accident
You may be a pretty good driver but not everyone else is. So be prepared for an accident.
Keep an accident checklist in your car along with your insurance card. Go online and see if your insurance company has one. If not, print out a list yourself. You’ll need:
- All the information on the other driver’s license
- Insurance company and policy number
- Car make, model, year and tag numbers
- Names of passengers and witnesses (people who saw the accident from outside)
Stash these supplies in the trunk:
- A blanket or extra jacket
- Road triangles or emergency flares
A car emergency kit is a smart investment if you’ll be driving away from home, such as to college or work.
Lesson 2: Take a Deep Breath, Check for Injuries
If you’re in an accident, the first thing to do after the car stops is take a deep breath. Then check to see if anyone’s hurt (including yourself).
Don’t try to pull someone out of a car if he or she is hurt. You can make it worse. Call 911 or other local emergency number.
State driver manuals agree. Learn more about your state’s rules about handling road accidents by looking for its official manual at this driver’s ed site.
Offer water and cover the person with a blanket or jacket to prevent shock. Stay with him or her until an ambulance arrives.
Lesson 3: Move Your Car to a Safe Place
If you can, move your car to a safe place and turn on the emergency lights.
Set up the markers to alert oncoming traffic there’s been an accident.
Lesson 4: Call the Police
Even if no one seems hurt or the car isn’t that damaged, call the police.
You never know if the other driver will call his insurance company later to file a claim against you. A police report is the only way an accident will be on record for your insurance company to review.
Lesson 5: Say Little But Collect Information
Keep conversation with the other driver and his/her passengers to a minimum, advises USAA.
Be polite, but don’t engage in conversation beyond the information for that checklist. Be prepared to provide your information if the other driver asks for it.
- Don’t apologize. You don’t know who’s at fault.
- Don’t agree everything’s OK. Many people in car accidents feel the pain a few days later.
- Don’t listen to arguments about no-fault or premium increases.
Lesson 6: Contact Your Insurance Company
Tell your insurance company there’s been an accident. You can call it in or report it through a website. Many insurers also have apps that let you download the information they need.
Accidents stink, but handling them calmly and with maturity will make them a lot easier to get over.
Author info: Ruth Ann Monti is the founder of TimeStorm Communications, which provides original content, copywriting, social media and marketing services for entrepreneurs and small business. She lives with her son and two dogs in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.