The thought of getting into a car accident is scary. You want yourself and your loved ones to be safe every time you get on the road.
To help ease your worries, take the time to educate yourself on what to do in a car accident. You should know what to do before, during, and after. Go over the steps of preparation in your mind. By doing so, you are giving yourself the best possible outcome should anything unfortunate happen while you are behind the wheel.
Before an Accident: Be Prepared
You can’t predict if or when you will ever be involved in a car accident. However, by preparing yourself the best you can, if it does happen to you, you will be able to get the help you need as quickly as possible.
Keep a vehicle safety kit in your car
Be prepared for severe weather or emergency conditions (including a car accident) by keeping a vehicle safety kit in your car. Items to include in your kit are:
- Jumper cables
- Snow scraper
- Small shovel
- A bag of sand or kitty litter (for aiding tire grip in icy or muddy conditions)
- Tow rope
- Basic tool kit
- First aid kit
- Flares or cones
- Paper towels
- Blanket and poncho
- Emergency phone charger
- High-calorie snack foods
Put important documents in the glovebox
Keep originals (or copies) of the following documents in your wallet or glove box for quick access:
- Driver’s License
- Proof of liability Insurance
- Emergency contacts
- Health insurance cards
- Listed emergency medical conditions
Always carry a charged phone
Keep a phone charger in your car and try to have at least a 50% battery charge left on your phone whenever you don’t have access to a charger.
Restrain loose items
The force caused by an accident can easily turn everyday items into deadly projectiles. Here are a few tips to keep you safe from your stuff:
- Keep your car clean. Don’t use your backseat or the area below your rear passenger-car window as long-term storage space.
- If you have a 3rd row, keep the seats up. This allows it to serve as a barrier between you and your cargo. This is especially important if you have one passenger sitting on only one side of the back row.
- When packing, place the heaviest objects closest to the back seat and the lightest objects toward the trunk.
- Use a ratcheting cargo buckle to restrain items. Covers, cargo nets, and bungee cords are not rated for the high g-forces experienced in an accident and they will likely break.
Learn how to request roadside assistance
If your vehicle offers an emergency roadside assistance button, read your owner’s manual to learn how to use it. Otherwise, program your insurance agency’s or your credit card’s roadside assistance contact number into your phone.
During an Accident: Be Safe
There is a lot you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe should a car accident take place.
You are much less likely to lose your life or sustain serious injuries in a car accident if you buckle up every time you get into a moving vehicle, even while you are just driving through the neighborhood. If you don’t, your airbags won’t work how they are intended, your auto insurance might not cover your claim, and you may be issued a ticket and fine from a police officer.
Be especially sure you are following child safety restraint guidelines and go to a car seat checkpoint to make sure you have them installed correctly.
Properly adjust your seat, steering wheel, headrests, and mirrors
When you are sitting comfortably while driving you will be less distracted by back pain. When your body is well-aligned you will also be in the optimum position for safety in a collision and for optimal driving control.
Take the time to learn proper positioning practices and adjust your seat, steering wheel, headrests, and mirrors every time you get in the car. The seat and headrest guidelines apply to passengers as well.
Drive a safe vehicle
Before buying a new car, be sure to check out the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) ratings. Regularly check your car against the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Safety Issues & Recalls database.
Inspect your tires for unusual wear and tear and replace when necessary. Please note, the often-used “Penny Test” is now viewed as outdated by some tire manufacturers. Next time, you might want to use a quarter.
Take a defensive driving course
A Defensive Driving Course in Austin will teach you (either online or hands on) Texas road rules and regulations, road signs and symbols, habits of safe drivers, Texas drunk driving laws and penalties, driving techniques for hazardous conditions, how to develop better driving attitudes and habits, and how to share the road with motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
Reel in your road rage
It’s not worth it to put yourself and others in a dangerous position just because you got angry. Learn how to get your road rage under control and practice often.
Refrain from texting while driving
The statistics speak for themselves. Text messaging while driving:
- Killed 3,179 people and injured 431,000 in 2014 alone
- Makes a crash up to 23 times more likely
- Sent teens outside of their lane approximately 10% of their driving time
Together with the rest of your family, take a text-free-driving pledge.
Don’t drive while under the influence
Driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs is a very serious offense. In Texas, jail time can span from 3 days to 2 years for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charges with fines up to $4,000. License suspensions range between 90 days and 2 years.
After an Accident: Be Thorough
Here’s what to do in a car accident, directly after it’s happened.
Take a deep breath (or two) and don’t panic. You need a clear head to assess your situation and to keep things under control.
Move to a safe area
If the accident is minor, slowly drive your vehicle out of traffic and set up a safety perimeter with flares or cones if you have them. Turn on your hazards. Don’t move your car if you aren’t in danger or if you are seriously injured.
Never leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive and tell you it’s okay to drive away.
Check yourself and others for injury
Check for injuries to yourself, your passengers, and other involved individuals. Call 911 immediately if there are any injuries, including dizziness and shock.
Call the police
It is always best to call the police after an accident takes place, even when minor. A police report can prove to be invaluable when dealing with your car insurance agency and any legal proceedings.
Cooperate fully with the officers but avoid admitting fault or blaming others.
Gather and exchange information
Gather the documents out of your wallet and glovebox and exchange them with the other driver. Write down the following information:
- Driver and passenger names
- License plate numbers
- Insurance information (company name, policy number, and phone number)
- Makes and models of all vehicles
- Contact information of eyewitnesses
- Location of the accident
- Name and badge number of any responding police officers
DO NOT sign any document unless it is for the police or your own insurance agent.
Document the scene
If you are able, use your phone camera to take some photos of the accident scene, vehicle damage, personal injuries, and any other possible evidence such as tire marks, hazards, etc.
This may come in handy for your insurance claim or if police action or a lawsuit results from the accident.
Call your insurance agent
Check your insurance card for your insurer’s contact information and file a claim as soon as possible. Your agent will guide you through the entire process.
What Happens Next?
Once you have been dismissed by the police from the scene of the accident, what do you do next?
Get medical treatment
Even if your injuries seem to be minor, your next course of action should be to get proper medical treatment.
Contact a personal injury attorney
By calling a lawyer who is experienced with car accident cases, you will have the best chance at getting a fair settlement for your expenses. Medical bills, psychological care, car towing/repair, replacement of personal items, and time off of work can all add up to be a substantial sum.
Being involved in a car accident in Austin can be inconvenient at best and possibly much worse. By knowing what to do before, during, and after the accident, you are giving yourself the knowledge, preparation, and skills it takes to stay safe on the road.