How to Stay Safe After an Auto Accident


Last Updated on July 31st, 2017

The most tragic stories are of those who survived a car crash only to be killed as pedestrians after exiting their vehicles. It’s natural to jump out, inspect the damage, and talk to the other driver, but usually the safest thing to do is stay inside your vehicle where you are protected.

STAY INSIDE YOUR CAR

After an accident, if your vehicle will drive at all, move out of the flow of traffic. If you are on the freeway, it is best to get off the freeway entirely if you can. Otherwise, the right-hand shoulder is your best choice, but you may have to move to the median.

Safety experts from AAA and State Highway Patrols recommend that you remain inside your vehicle. People who get out of their cars are killed and injured far more often than those who stay inside.

Staying inside your vehicle offers far more protection than standing outside the vehicle if another vehicle comes along and hits the same patch of ice or simply does not see you.

Tragic, Unnecessary Deaths

  • On January 7, 2015, two people were killed in an 18 car pileup in Pennsylvania. Both had left their vehicles. No one else was killed in the crash.
  • In 2010, two women were killed in Atlanta after they got out of their vehicles to examine the damage from a fender-bender. They were struck by a tow-truck.
  • In December of 2014, a New Orleans woman was killed while attempting to cross I-10. She had been in collision that landed both vehicles out of the flow of traffic, but on opposite sides of the highway. She crossed the road to talk to the other driver and was killed while returning to her own vehicle.

When You Must Get Out of Your Car

Of course, there are situations where it’s more dangerous to stay inside the vehicle. If you cannot get out of the flow of traffic, you will need to get out, very carefully. Watch for oncoming traffic before exiting the vehicle. Better to get hit inside your car than on foot.

If you smell gas you need to get out right away. There could be a fuel leak that can lead to a fuel-fed fire or explosion.

If you must get out of the vehicle, get away from the road. Never stand behind or in front of the vehicle. Get as far from the roadway as you can.

Dangerous Places

Freeways, interstates, and any road with heavy, fast-moving traffic is going to be the most dangerous place to get out of your vehicle. But, don’t be lulled into a false sense of safety on a quiet, lonely road. Very dark roads, blinding sun during sunrise and sunset, curves in the road, and dangerous conditions such as icy roads, obstacles in the roads, fog or driving rain can all create a scenario where you will be struck by another vehicle if you are standing in or near the road.

STAY BUCKLED IN

After an accident, it’s important that you keep your seat belt on. The conditions that caused your accident may cause other accidents around you. Additionally, your vehicle and any other vehicles involved in the crash, or debris from the accident, could be a hazard on the road.

It’s not uncommon for one accident to lead to others, including multi-car pileups.

Research indicates that those who unbelt but stay in their car are more easily and severely hurt by subsequent cars that pile into them.

STAY CALM

Stay calm — Take some deep breaths to get calm. After a crash, you may feel a wide range of emotions — shock, guilt, fear, nervousness, or anger — all of which are normal. But take a few deep breaths or count to 10 to calm down. The calmer you are, the better prepared you will be to handle the situation. This is the time to take stock of the accident and try to make a judgment about whether it was a serious one.

STAY ON THE PHONE, WITH THE POLICE, UNTIL THEY ARRIVE.

If the accident was more than a minor one, call 911 and stay on the phone. Do not hang up until the police have arrived or until you have been instructed to hang up.

According to 911.gov, “If you dial 911 by mistake…. do not hang up—that could make 911 officials think that an emergency exists, and possibly send responders to your location. Instead, simply explain to the call-taker what happened.”

Follow any instructions the 911 operator gives you. Many 911 centers can provide safety instructions, including CPR or first aid, in the even of an emergency.

STAY SAFE AFTER AN AUTO ACCIDENT

After you’ve spoken to the police, you should talk with your insurance company. You may also need to contact a tow company or auto service agency, such as AAA.

If you are the victim of an auto accident, you may also need legal services to protect your rights. Because of statutes of limitations, you have a limited amount of time before your claim expires.