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What You Must Do After a Car Accident

Crashed car - Copyright: Montian Noowong

DMV Questions about Car Accidents

You are likely to see at least one of two types of questions about car accidents on your DMV test. One type deals with what you can do to prevent accidents, the other what you should do after an accident.

Both are important parts of the written knowledge test.

Your Responsibilities after a Crash

Let’s look at your responsibilities when you are involved in a crash.

1. Stop at the Scene

The Cardinal Rule is to immediately stop at the scene. You should never leave the scene of a car accident unless authorized to do so by a law enforcement officer. The consequences of fleeing the scene of an accident can be severe. So, try not to panic, even if you believe you are at fault.

2. Move Your Car

If you can move your car, and unless there are serious injuries, pull over to the side and away from the travel lane. Don’t block traffic because of a fender-bender. If you let your vehicle stay on the road, you increase the risk of secondary accidents.

3. Alert Other Drivers

As soon as you are parked off the roadway, turn on your vehicle’s hazard lights. Turn off the ignition of wrecked vehicles.

It is a good idea to carry cones, warning triangles or flares in your trunk. If you have them, place the first flare or triangle 10 feet directly behind the left corner of your car. Place the second 100 feet on the road behind your car, 2-3 feet from the edge line. Be aware of traffic and avoid walking in the travel lane.

Warning Triangle

In case of a minor fender bender or a mechanical breakdown, raise your hood or tie a white cloth to your door handle to emphasize that you are having car trouble.

4. Check for Injuries

In a severe car accident, checking for injuries is your main priority. Make sure injured persons are breathing. Then, check for bleeding. If there is bleeding, apply pressure directly on the wound with your hand or with a cloth. Even a severe bleeding can be stopped or slowed by putting direct pressure on the wound.

Do not move an injured person, unless there is an immediate danger, such as a car fire. If you move an injured person, you can make injuries worse. For the same reason, you should never give an injured person something to drink, not even water.

If you cover an injured person with a blanket, it will keep the person warm and may help him or her from going into shock.

Call for help. Even if there are just minor injuries, you should make sure the police and emergency medical or rescue squad are notified.

Remember, not all injuries are easy to see at a first glance. Some symptoms after a crash can appear several days later. These symptoms include headaches, neck or shoulder pain, back pain, abdominal pain, numbness in hands or feet, and other changes physical functions.

Teenager with neck injury - Copyright: Cathy Yeulet

A professional evaluation of all injuries at the scene is often in your best interest.

5. What Information Do You Give When You Get in an Accident?

When asked, you must show your driver’s license and vehicle registration to the anyone involved in the accident and to the police. You must give your name and current address. In general, you must also show proof of insurance. Make sure you always have it with you when you drive.

When you get the opportunity, you should also call your insurance company or insurance agent and tell them about the accident. They can give you more information on what to do next.

Don’t discuss the accident with anyone else than the police and your insurance agent. Don’t tell anyone the car accident was your fault, even if you think it was. It is also recommended that you don’t reveal your policy limits.

Car accident report

6. When do You Need to Report the Car Accident?

There are different state rules for reporting accidents. In some states, a police report is all that is needed to satisfy your responsibilities. In other states, each driver must file a report with the DMV, often immediately after the car accident. Such a report may be needed even if the accident only resulted in damages to your own car.

Reports (police or your own) are typically needed when there are injuries or death, and/or property damages over a certain amount ($500 – $1,000).

Look up information about car accident reports in your driver’s manual and make sure you know the details for your written DMV test.

7. When You are NOT Involved, Keep Moving

Don’t slow down just to look at a crash. This could cause another driver to hit you from behind.

If you take your eyes off the road to look at something, you also risk running into a vehicle ahead that has slowed or stopped. Rubbernecking can increase traffic congestion and contribute to risk-taking and aggressive driving.

Statistics - Driver's Prep

What Statistics Will Tell You

More than 37,000 people die in road crashes each year. It is more than 100 deaths a day. An additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled.

Young and new drivers are more likely to be involved in road crashes. 8,000 deaths each year involve drivers ages 16-20.

Something to think about when you get your new driver’s license, isn’t it?

Over the course of your long, driving lifetime, you will have a total of three to four car accidents. Statically speaking, that is.

In other words, it’s not a question of if – but when you will crash your car.

Statistics also reveals what contributes to accidents and where accidents are most likely to happen.

Intersections, and Work Zones

Intersections are the most dangerous places. More than 45% of all reported car crashes occur at intersections. Remember to slow down, check for crossing traffic, bicyclists, and pedestrians before proceeding. Don’t try to beat a red light. Stop as soon as the light changes to yellow.

Accidents in work zones are often rear-end crashes. Keeping a reasonable following distance is especially important in work zones, where traffic often slows down or comes to a stop.

Alcohol and Drugs

For your test, you must also be aware of how alcohol and drugs affect your driving skills. Most of it is perhaps common sense, but focus a bit more on these chapters in the Driver’s Manual. Alcohol is still the number one killer on American roads and it is often a priority for DMV to make sure you are aware of the risks.

Take a Break – Drive Awake

Drowsy driving is also an important factor in road accidents. Don’t drive when you are tired. On long trips, you should pull off the road and take a short break every 2 hours or 100 miles. It is another question the DMV loves to put on your test.

Take a break - drive awake

Good luck and be safe!


Learn more about: insurance claims after an accident.

Photo copyrights: Crashed car – Copyright: Montian Noowong, Teenager with neck injury – Copyright: Cathy Yeulet, Infographic by Traffic Safety Marketing




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