Accidents aren’t fun, even minor ones can seriously rattle your nerves. It’s precisely this nerve rattling that can result in poor decision making, costly and sometimes even illegal mistakes.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of Do’s and Don’ts to help guide you through the process so that you can feel confident and prepared if an accident does occur…
- Do know your legal obligations:
- You legally must stop if you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident.
- You must provide your name, address, registration and insurance details to other people involved.
- You must report the accident to the police if someone is hurt, if there is significant property damage, if you suspect the other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if the other driver leaves the scene without providing their details. Minor bingles however don’t need the police involved.
- Do switch off the ignition, turn on the hazard lights and try to move your car out of traffic.
- Do call an ambulance straight away if someone is injured. Even if they say they’re okay, things like whiplash and concussion may not be evident and could cause serious problems later on, so they need to be checked out.
- Do beware of the towies – they’ll start to circle you like vultures. Locals can get spotters’ fees if they call a local towing company, so will make the call whether you need to be towed or not. Some towies are more reputable than others, and a tattooed, large-bellied, unshaven towie (sorry for the stereotype) can be pretty intimidating — especially if you’re already a little shaken up. Your insurance provider (or police officer, if one is on site) will be able to refer you to a reputable towing company.
- Do take the details of the other driver. Make sure you cite their driver’s licence if possible so you know you’re not getting misleading information (a photo of it is even better). Be sure to at least capture:
- Car registration, make, model and colour.
- Licence details of the other driver including full name, address, DOB and licence number. If the licence was issued in another state, you should note that as well.
- Phone number of the other driver.
- Insurance details of the driver. Most people don’t have their policy number handy (though they should) so at least get the insurer’s name.
- Do ask anyone who may have stopped if they will be an official witness should the need arise. Take their name, number and licence details too. If there is a dispute, it’s handy to have a third party describe the incident.
- Do take some pics of any damage to the cars, people or other property. If you believe the other driver ran a red light or ignored any other traffic signs, take a picture of that as well. You never know when these things end up in a dispute — it’s easier to get as much information at the scene, as this serves as a memory jogger and may help your insurer process the claim quicker.
- Don’t admit you’re at fault, whatever you do. Even if you believe you’re the driver at fault, leave this to your insurance provider to determine. Having said that, you shouldn’t provide false or misleading information either.
- Don’t drive away in an un-roadworthy car.
- Don’t drive if you’re feeling anxious, frazzled or upset. Ring a friend or catch a cab. You’re likely to be in shock or at least have frazzled nerves and a frazzled driver isn’t good on the road.
- Don’t argue with the other driver. Yes, you may be very angry that you’ve just been cut off by some loudmouth, but adding emotion and anger only fuels the fire. The other driver is also likely to be less cooperative.
- Don’t leave your car in the middle of the road as this can cause further accidents. Of course, only move it if it is safe to do so.
- Don’t leave the scene of an accident without providing your details to the other driver, it’s against the law. If someone does leave in a huff without providing their details, call the police and make sure you get their licence plate number. The police will be able to find out the identity of the other driver to help you make your insurance claim.
- Don’t rely on anyone’s family member or friend to fix your car. You probably don’t know the other driver so who knows if the job will be done in a timeframe and to a quality you’re happy with. Always go through your insurance company.
Ultimately, accidents do happen and you need to be prepared. Learn the list, know your legal obligations, avoid making rash decisions and try to stay calm and collected.
For more tips on how to get out of a jam, head to the troubleshooting page in Cars 101.