A while back my wife, or Mrs. Save and Conquer as she sometimes likes to be called, was very nearly in a high-speed accident on the freeway. She said a car in front of her in the right lane lost control, went across all lanes of the freeway, bounced off the center wall, and back into the lane in front of her. As all this unfolded, she hit the brakes and managed to come to a stop a few feet from the out-of-control car. She then pulled over to the right shoulder and called emergency police.
The dispatcher asked if anyone was injured. My wife said the people in the crashed car did not appear injured, but that gasoline was leaking from the vehicle. The dispatcher said police and fire crews were on their way, and that my wife could leave.
My wife did not leave, but called me because she was a bit shaky and wanted to calm down. I asked pretty much the same as the dispatcher, and was relieved that she had not actually been in the accident. I then recommended that she not leave the scene until a police officer told her to. My thinking was along the lines of liability.
You never know what other people might say or recollect about an accident. She said she heard someone say that the other car had been cut off and that was why they crashed. I did not want it to come back at her that she had anything to do with the accident.
If you drive long enough in a metropolitan area, you will probably have your share of close calls. It is a good idea to sometimes go over what to do if you are witness to an accident or are involved in an accident.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you are off the roadway and out of danger. Drive your car to the side of the road, if possible. If your car cannot be driven, stay in the car with seat belt fastened until help arrives. (Obviously, don’t stay in the car if there is fire or leaking gas.)
- Turn on emergency flashers, determine if there are any injuries, and then call 911.
- Wait for the first responders (i.e., police) and then do whatever they tell you.
In addition, if you were involved in the accident
- Get names and addresses of people involved, their drivers license numbers, vehicle make and model, vehicle identification number from their vehicle’s registration, plus insurance company name and telephone numbers.
- Take pictures of the vehicles involved and of the accident scene. I carry a cheap camera in the glove box. Most cell phones have a built-in camera, so use that as well.
- Do not admit guilt.
- File an accident report with the police.
- Call your auto insurance.
- File an accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles.