Auto accidents can come without warning. But while we can't foresee future events, we can take precautions to protect ourselves. A few basic procedures can better prepare us for the inevitable, and having a plan in place will save emergency responders time and resources when seconds count.
According to the National Safety Council, "more than 41,000 people lose their lives in motor vehicle crashes each year and 2.4 million more suffer disabling injuries." While driving, we face threats from impaired or careless driving, high speeds, not using seat belts and many distractions. It is always advisable to use defensive driving, where you take responsibility for yourself and are aware of the actions of other drivers around you. To reduce the risks to you and your passengers, always wear your seat belts, obey all traffic laws, do not drink and drive, and use hands-free devices with cell phones.
If you have an auto accident, stop your vehicle immediately. If the vehicle is still drivable and you need to move it out of traffic, then do so (take photos first if possible). Turn off the vehicle's ignition, turn on the emergency lights, and if you have an emergency response system, report the accident to your operator. Stay clear of oncoming traffic and move a safe distance away from the accident. Call 911 for police and medical response, and give the dispatcher clear and concise answers, such as your name, the number of injured, how many vehicles were involved and the specific accident location. Never admit fault or apologize.
Wait for the police officer and emergency medical technicians to arrive. You can help the other accident victims, but you would not want to give medical assistance unless you are trained to do so. CPR can be performed if you have taken an approved life-saving course. Unless they are in danger, never move victims, as doing so may cause more injuries.
Record the make, model and license plate number of each vehicle involved. Photograph the damage to your vehicle and the other vehicles, as well as the location where the accident occurred. Ask for the other driver's name, telephone number and insurance information, and ask any witnesses for their names and telephone numbers. If you prefer, you can have the police exchange your personal information. If you receive a ticket, don't argue with the police, but instead plead your case in court.
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