Crash course: What to do when you’re in a car accident

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Here’s the scene: you’re driving home from school while blaring your favorite Kanye song. Suddenly, you hear a loud crash (and it isn’t just because the bass in your car is turned all the way up). Oh my lanta, you have just gotten in a car accident. What’s your next move?

According to police officer Dan Williams, father of senior Becca Williams and sophomore Emma Williams, before anything, it is always important to make sure you have your license, registration and proof of insurance with you. Having these close at hand will make the whole process go faster, and can help alleviate any unnecessary stress.

Next, if your car is movable, move it off of the road and into a safe place to avoid causing a traffic jam or other accidents. If it is not movable, try to get yourself out of the car and stand in a safe place out of traffic. Do not try to clean up any debris in the street, and if your car is leaking gas or hissing, stand farther away.

The next step in a car accident is communicating with the driver of the other car and calling the police. This step can be intimidating, but Williams, who has been investigating accidents for more 20 years, said, “First, if you are able to do so safely, it’s always good to make sure nobody is injured. Whether you believe it is your fault or not, remain calm, be polite. Don’t escalate the situation by letting your emotions take over. Drivers sometimes get upset or angry over car accidents. If someone is shouting at you, showing anger, making you feel uncomfortable, then remove yourself from that person and call 911 immediately.”

If you are able to, it would be helpful to take pictures of the car damage and the other driver’s insurance card to make sure that you are getting all of the correct information.

In some cases, the other driver might want to avoid calling the police or reporting the accident to his or her insurance. In this instance, he or she would just pay for the damages with his or her own money. It is always just a safe bet to call the police to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and you or your parents can decide whether you are comfortable with not reporting it to insurance. In either instance, you should get the contact information of the other driver. graphic2

If there are any witnesses, take note of where they were in relation to the accident and ask them if they can stay and talk to the police or at least get their contact information. Witnesses can help to clear up what happened in the accident and can reduce tension between you and the other driver.

Another thing to make sure of when you’re in a car accident is that the other driver doesn’t leave. Junior Mackenzie Blaine got into this exact situation. “I lied to my parents about where I was going, and I got in an accident and freaked out,” Blaine said.

She and the other driver both got out of their cars and were exchanging numbers when the other driver’s phone died and he said he was going to leave to go charge it.

“I was too shocked to say anything, so I just let him leave. I got a hold of my dad and we called the police. The whole process ended up taking really long, and my car wasn’t drivable so I had to go home with my dad,” Blaine said.

Parting advice from Blaine is not to lie to your parents because you never know what could happen and don’t  let the other driver leave the scene before the police come.

Getting in a car accident can be scary, but as long as you are prepared and know what to do, everything will go smoothly. Some parting words from Williams are to always, always, always wear a seatbelt.

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