Accident Safety Tips

If You are Involved in a Collision

Minor Collisions
In a minor collision with no injuries, stay calm and move out of traffic. The key here is safety first, insurance later. Keep a pad and pencil handy, and use them to exchange information once you've cleared the scene.

Major Collisions
In a major collision, you'll have to be the judge of whether or not you're injured and how quickly traffic is moving around you. You should wait for help in a safe place, which might be in your car. If you're uninjured and traffic permits, you may want to begin first aid on those around you. But don't put yourself at risk doing so. You'll be no help to anyone if you lapse into shock or get struck by a passing motorist.

If You Witness a Collision

Stop Your Vehicle Safely
Whatever the situation, your intervention might help save a life. If you are involved in the collision, you must stop. All states impose severe penalties on drivers who don't stop in such cases. Remember, you can be "involved" in a collision without actually hitting anything. If you contribute to a crash in any way, you're obligated to stop.

Pass well beyond the wreck before signaling and pulling off of the road, out of harm's way. This keeps you from blocking the view of the collision to oncoming traffic, and it gives emergency crews room to work. Turn on your emergency flashers and raise your hood to call attention to yourself.

Approach the Wreck Carefully
Avoid dangerous situations like wires, fires, or hazardous materials as you approach the vehicles. Next, turn off the ignitions of all vehicles involved in the wreck to reduce the risk of fire. This simple step could keep a bad collision from becoming much worse. Remember, check for spilled gasoline or downed power lines before getting too close. Don't move an injured driver to get to his or her keys.

Call for Help
Call 9-1-1. Be sure to stay on the line until the emergency dispatcher hangs up. If you need to administer first aid, assign the call to someone else and be specific: "You in the red jacket -- call 9-1-1!"

Help Injured Victims
Check for injuries. Are victims awake and responsive? If so, encourage them not to move. If they don't respond, verify that they are breathing. Then attend to those with severe bleeding (wear latex gloves if possible). And remember: never move victims unless there is an immediate, life-threatening danger such as fire, leaking fuel, or rising water.

If the fear of making a mistake keeps you from helping, be aware that most states have "Good Samaritan" laws to protect individuals from liability if they stop and in good faith administer first aid. The scope of protection varies, so check your state's laws.