Although responsible motorists try to avoid them, even the best drivers get into auto accidents. The National Safety Council estimates 20 million drivers will be in accidents this year.
The NSC offers these tips on what to do after an auto accident:
• Stay calm. Avoid tendencies towards "road rage" and stay calm if you encounter another driver who is behaving irrationally. When these situations escalate, they can often lead to dangerous driving and crashes. There is no slight, vulgar gesture or foolish behavior worth endangering your life, your car and lives of others.
• Protect yourself. Be alert to traffic scams that seem like accidents, such as when driving on a lightly traveled road, particularly at night, and being tapped from behind. Predatory criminals do this to get the driver to exit the car and then either rob the driver or steal the car. If you are suspicious of the circumstances, stay in your vehicle and drive to a police station or heavily populated area for assistance.
• Stop. If you are in an accident do not leave the scene until you have spoken with the other driver or the police.
• Take steps to prevent further accidents. If practical, move the car and all passengers to the side of the road. If functioning, turn your emergency flashing lights on and, if available, set out a flare on the road if it's dark out.
• Call the police from the scene or ask someone to do so. It is usually best to have the police address any traffic infractions, assist with injuries and record what happened.
• Request medical assistance, if needed. If you or others are bleeding, feel light-headed or are suffering an injury, always err on the side of calling for assistance.
• Do not admit fault or discuss the accident with anyone but the police or your insurance company. Call your insurance agent as soon as possible.
• Write down pertinent information. This includes the other driver's name, address, phone number, license plate and driver's license number, and the time of the accident. Note the names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses, the badge number of police officers and where to obtain a copy of a police report and other pertinent information about the scene, such as exact location, the issuance of any tickets by the police and any recollections about your vehicle's handling or mechanical functioning just prior to the accident.
• Carry an emergency kit in your car. It should include at least a road flare or traffic triangle, brightly colored cloth to tie to your radio antenna and driver side door handle, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a basic tool kit with duct tape, a pen and paper. Always have a copy of your insurance company ID card, your driver's license and registration.
• Assist others. If you come upon an accident and want to help, pull your car off the road ahead of the accident. If there are injuries, call for assistance. Unless trained in emergency medical assistance, do not move injured people or perform medical procedures.