Insurance actuarial tables show that a driver is going to get into an accident about every 18 years. Of course, that doesn't mean you should look at the calendar and get worried because your number's coming up after 17 years and 11 months. Still, there's a good chance you're going to get into at least a minor collision in your time behind the wheel, so it's important to know what to do.
The good news is that if you do get into a collision, your chances of survival are much, much better than they were a generation ago. Today's vehicles are designed with crumple zones, side-curtain airbags, forward-facing airbags, and many other features that are designed to keep occupants safe in an accident. After all, your property isn't nearly as important as your own safety when worst comes to worst.
You can start by taking some common-sense precautions to enhance your chances of not getting into an accident to start with:
- Keep your vehicle in good shape, especially brakes, headlights and tires.
- Watch your following distances and speed, and be ready to slow down according to conditions.
- Always wear your seatbelt and insist on other passengers doing the same.
- Make sure that any child seats are properly installed.
- Keep pets safely secured so that your focus remains on the road.
- Don't leave loose objects in your vehicle—anything that's more than a few ounces in weight will turn into a missile in the event of a collision.
If you are involved in a collision, even a minor one, it's a traumatic and stressful event. You'll be rattled and shaken with your adrenaline pumping, but it's important to keep a clear head and know what to do.
- Check all occupants (of both vehicles) to see if anyone's injured.
- If anyone is seriously injured in either vehicle, do not move them unless their life is in immediate danger.
- Call 911 right away.
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
- Use your smartphone camera to take multiple pictures of the crash site, from different angles.
- If it's dark outside, set a reflective triangle or a highway flare about 200 feet behind the accident site to alert other drivers.
Have A Trouble Kit
There are things you should keep in your vehicle in case you're stuck or have mechanical problems, and some of these are especially important in case of an accident:
- Sharp knife that can cut through a seatbelt
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
- Flares or reflective triangles
- Spare power bank for cell phone, or an emergency flip phone (Did you know that you can always call 911 even on an old flip phone that isn't paid up?)
- Insurance information
And if you're in a cold climate or traveling in winter:
- Blanket, knit cap, gloves and sweater
- Ice scraper & de-icer
- Kitty litter (perfect for traction in snow)
- Tire chains or tire socks, a new innovation that's a lot easier to use than chains
You hope that the worst never happens, of course, and there's a good chance it won't. Like other emergencies, though, it's smart to be prepared and know what to do even if you never have to face that situation.