Although they happen all to often, car crashes always take you by surprise and leave you feeling a bit dazed. That's why it's important to know what to do after you've been involved in a car accident, even if you're in a bit of a daze.
- Stay in your car until you know how badly you've been injured, if at all. If everything seems to be fine, just sit for a minute and collect your thoughts.
- If you think you’re injured, don't move until help arrives and your injury can be stabilized. Sometimes movement can make your injury worse.
- If the car is still running, shut it off. Pull the keys out of the ignition.
- Apply the emergency brake. Turn on your hazards lights. If it's nighttime, leave your headlights and parking lights on (if they work). This way, other motorists and emergency personnel can see you.
- If your cell phone works and you have coverage, call 911.
- Determine if it’s safe to exit the car. If you're unsure, stay in the car until help arrives.
- If available, use cones or flares to warn other motorists.
- If you struck a deer, wait for authorities to clear it from the roadway.
- Check the damage of your car. Look for body damage, leaking fluids, smoke from the hood, and tire and wheel condition. Take photos if you can.
- If it’s a serious accident, assume that your car is not drivable. Even if it looks ok, there may be structural and mechanical damage you cannot see. Driving could further damage your car.
- Attempt to move the car only if it poses a danger to oncoming motorists in its current position (for example, if it is in the middle of a busy road).
- Drive your car away only if it’s dangerous to stay put or if it is absolutely clear to you that your car has not sustained any real damage.
- Stay a safe distance away if the car catches fire.
- Wait for help to arrive.
- Inform emergency personnel if your car is a hybrid or electric car. The high-voltage components in these cars may require specialized handling.
- Don't move the car unless it poses a threat to oncoming motorists.
- Don't drive the car away unless it is dangerous for you to remain at the crash site.
- Don't attempt to drive the car if the fenders are pushed into the tires.
- Don't lift the hood too soon if you're checking for damage. The burst of oxygen can make a small fire turn into a large one in a matter of seconds.
- Don't try to move a deer you just hit, unless you are absolutely sure the animal is dead and it poses a threat to oncoming motorists.