Let’s face it – driving is one of the riskiest everyday things we do, and even the best of drivers can find themselves suddenly sitting inside a crumpled vehicle. If and when this misfortune happens, the next question is: do you know what to do to keep things from getting any worse?
The truth is, there are a number of issues to consider after your initial impact. Property damage, who’s at fault and the proper exchange of information are all important, but first and foremost are the health and safety of everyone involved. Following these steps will help you minimize the negative consequences of a roadway collision.
Determine your personal situation.
Have you or any passengers in your vehicle suffered serious injuries that require immediate medical attention? If so, is there anything you can do yourself, like putting pressure on a wound to stop any bleeding? Are you trapped or can you safely leave your vehicle without further risk of injury? Shut off your ignition as soon as possible to reduce the risk of a fire, and turn on your emergency blinkers.
Assess the scene.
Where is your vehicle and any others involved in the auto body collision? Is it safe to leave your vehicle? Check to see whether there are any continuing dangers, like fires or oncoming traffic, and whether anyone outside your vehicle is injured or needs help. Get your vehicle out of harm’s way if you’re in imminent danger – a second auto crash could be worse than the first.
Call for help.
Dial 911 for police and, if needed, emergency medical assistance. If you don’t have a cell phone, ask another motorist, pedestrian or witness to make the call.
Administer emergency assistance to the seriously injured.
If you know first aid, do what you can to help. According to the European Safety Transport Council, more than half of all motor vehicle collision fatalities occur within minutes of the impact, and on-site emergency first aid can save lives. The highest priority is to restore a victim’s breathing; next is to stop any heavy bleeding.
Avoid further injuries or collisions.
Except in dire emergencies – like a fire or the possibility of impact from another vehicle – it’s better not to move the injured. Instead, stay by them and keep them warm with a blanket or an extra coat or jacket to delay the onset of shock.
Don’t approach any vehicle from which smoke or flames are coming. Able-bodied people should secure the scene by setting up road flares or emergency signs to warn and slow down approaching traffic. Carefully consider whether any vehicles involved should be moved to a safer place – some states prohibit it.
Report the facts. When medical and police help arrives, immediately report any injuries or ongoing emergencies.