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What to do if you get in an accident

As they say on an airplane, in the unlikely event of a crash, what should you do? We will discuss the dos and don’ts, but first let’s look at the ways to reduce our chances of getting in an accident in the first place.

As they say on an airplane, in the unlikely event of a crash, what should you do? We will discuss the dos and don’ts, but first let’s look at the ways to reduce our chances of getting in an accident in the first place.

High risk driving like failing to yield, following too close, improper passing and failing to observe traffic signals will increase your chances of getting in a crash.

Habits like using a phone, reading, personal grooming or anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road also increase your chances of getting in a crash.

Speeding or impaired driving obviously greatly increase your chances of crashing. They are both illegal and incredibly foolish.

Notice I went from using “accident” to using “crash.” The word “accident” implies it was unavoidable. Crashes that occur as the result of the habits I just decribed are very much avoidable.

If you are in an accident or crash, the first thing to do is to stop. Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offence. Remain calm and take a moment to get your bearings. Turn on your hazard lights.

If it’s safe, get out of your car and assess the situation. If anyone is hurt, call 911 immediately. Unless absolutely necessary, do not move anyone who is injured.

Even if no one is hurt and there is minimal damage, you should still call the police and get a file started. Make a note of this file number. Your insurance company may need this and it may be important if the other driver suddenly develops amnesia about the accident. After hearing the details, the police may or may not attend the scene.

Take pictures with your smart phone (or a disposable camera kept in your glove box) of the scene and the damage. Include the license plate number of other vehicles in pictures.

Only when it’s safe to do so, should you move your vehicle off the road and out of traffic. If it’s not safe to do so, put out cones or flares. Flares should not be used obviously if there are fuel leaks, or too close to any vehicles.

Regardless of who you felt was to blame, remain courteous and avoid arguing with other drivers. Do not assign or accept blame, sign anything, or agree to pay for damages at the scene. Save your interpretation of what happened for the police and insurance company.

Record all information that you can. Including the names of all other drivers and passengers, their phone numbers, and addresses. The name of their insurance company, and policy number if possible. Record the names and phone numbers of any and all witnesses to the crash, police officers, or tow truck drivers. The more information you can record at the scene, the better.

Call your insurance company and report the accident as soon as you can, share your information and ask for the next steps.

It’s fairly common for drivers at fault to be worried about their insurance rates increasing and so offer to pay for damages themselves. The risk for you agreeing to this is that the other driver may not want to cover the bill later or may want the repairs done as cheap as possible without concern for quality. There’s really no benefit for you to agree to this off the books remedy.

Regardless of who’s at fault, the insurance company paying for the damages will likely want three quotes for the repairs, and may steer you to a recommended body repair shop. You almost always have the right to choose the repair shop as long as your repair shop matches quotes and guarantees of workmanship. If the dealership you bought your car from has a body shop, or you have dealt with another body shop in the past, you may be more comfortable dealing with people you know. Let your insurance company know your preference.

Being properly prepared in case of a crash is often overlooked, but very important. It’s a good idea to keep the following in your glove compartment: disposable camera, pen and notepad, a good first aid kit with thermal blanket, flashlight with spare batteries, water, gloves, hand wipes, and maybe some non-perishable food. Having a card with important phone numbers for police, tow truck, insurance company, body shop and roadside assistance is also handy.

In your trunk you should have emergency cones, triangles or flares, a fire extinguisher, small tool kit, and booster cables.

Lastly, make sure that your Medic Alert bracelet or iPhone’s Emergency Medical ID app (other phones have similar information) are accurate and up to date with current information. These apps are accessible without your password by paramedics or other first responders. Making sure first responders know critical information such as presecriptions, allergies, other medical conditions, and next of kin may help save your life.

I hope you will never need the information here, but it’s important to be prepared for any situation that might arise on the roads.

Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.