What to do when you get into a car accident


Jake Conz

Senior Angel Gibson focuses on driving to avoid a car accident.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, In 2019, almost 2,400 teens in the United States aged 13-19 were killed and about 258,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.
In 2021, there were a total of 283,507 car crashes in the state of Michigan, with 460 of those crashes being in Wyandotte. Fortunately for our city, fatality rates have not gone up, but for the rest of Michigan, fatality rates have increased by 8.7 percent according to information provided by the Wyandotte Police Department. According to Forbes Magazine, using your phone while driving has increased by 38 percent, as well speeding and hard braking increasing by 25 percent or more since the pandemic began.

Checking on yourself
So, you have collided with another car, your first step should be to check yourself for injuries. If you are seriously injured, it is time for you to call 911. It is important that you do not try to move as you may cause additional injury to yourself.
No injury is too small. Even if the injuries are minor, Michigan Auto Law, a law office specializing in auto accidents, recommends that you go to the doctor to get checked out. It is also important that you tell the first responder of any symptoms that you have from the accident, this may include a headache, dizziness, blurred vision, etc.
“Any injuries that initially appear to be insignificant can later cause substantial pain and discomfort,” Michigan Auto Law wrote. “These injuries are often referred to as ‘delayed injuries’ and they must be documented immediately to prove they were caused by the crash and not some other event. It’s also important to return to your doctor if you experience any new symptoms that were not apparent during initial treatment.”

Checking on others
After checking yourself it is important that you check on your passengers. If yourself or someone is seriously injured it is important that you call 911. It is imperative that you do not move the injured passenger, as this can cause additional injury and or pain. When an ambulance arrives on the scene they will assess the passenger and what the next move would be for them.
According to BePrepared.com, an Emergency Essentials preparedness blog, if someone needs to be moved, try not to bend or twist them if possible. When they are lying on the ground, grab their shirt at the top of the shoulders, and using your forearms to cradle their head, pull their shirt to drag them in a straight line to a safe location.

Pulling the cars over to the side of the road.
After assessing the damage done to you, your passengers and your car, it is time for you to decide if you are able to pull your car over to the side of the road.
“If you’re in a major roadway. We recommend that [you pull your car to the side] to avoid either, you getting hit again, causing traffic backups or causing another collision because that does happen,” Wyandotte Police Chief Brian Zaleswki said. “If your car’s disabled, or which means it’s not drivable, or if the reason of the collision was maybe a mechanical failure, your brakes went out or a tire blew…you want to leave the cars in place.”

Notifying police – What to say
911 is not the only number that is used when calling for the police. 911 is an emergency only number, it is important to identify what is an emergency and what is not an emergency when in any situation but specifically a car crash. For instances where it is not an emergency you can call the police department of the city for which the accident took place. You can find this number by searching for an emergency phone number followed by the city name and police department.
“911 is always for emergencies, but if it’s a scenario [where] you’re backing out of your driveway and you bump your neighbor’s car, that’s not an emergency,” Zalewski said. “They [would] call the regular non-emergency line to say, ‘I’d like to report a collision I bumped into my neighbor’s car, we’re gonna need a police report if you can send an officer out’.”
Notifying the police is a crucial step in the car accident process so that you get a police report filed, which most insurance companies look for when you are filing a claim with them.
When calling the police it is important that you give them as many details as possible. According to the Forbes Advisor, an informative subsection of the magazine, you should begin with your name and your location, be prepared to provide the city, street name, and/or address of the closest house, mile markings if you’re on a highway, traffic signs or signals. Travel direction or whatever else might help the officers locate you on the road.

Documenting the accident
Documenting the accident is an important step in protecting yourself, keeping all of your facts in order and your documents ready for the insurance claim.
According to Allstate, your first step should be to identify the officers, this can help you get back into contact with them and help them identify the accident when you go to get your police report. When you go to the police station you are going to want to go to the police records bureau to obtain a copy of your report for a small fee.
You should also take photos of both of the vehicles damaged or not. This is important so that you have documentation of what the damage was from the accident in case anything else happens later down the line to the other car or even yours. Your photos on your phone should have a time stamp with the date and time of the accident so that you know exactly when it happened and you have proof of the damage for that date.

Preparing for the arrival of the police
After calling the police it should not be long until there is an officer on the scene. In order for this process to go more smoothly, you need to be prepared with your documentation. The driver should have their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof insurance ready.
“In Michigan it is now acceptable for a person to show the officer their proof of insurance on their phone,” Zalewski said. “So they don’t have to have that physical piece of paper on them. But I recommend that you get that piece of paper that was sent to you by your insurance carrier, print it out.”
Zalewski recommends that you print out a copy so that the police department does not have to touch your cell phone and potentially damage it by dropping it.

Collecting information from the other driver
You want to determine if it is safe to talk to the other driver before you approach them, if you can have a moderate talk with them without the police being there, then begin your information gathering process. If you have determined that it is unsafe to talk to them, wait in your car until the police arrive. Once the police arrive, you may exit your vehicle and do what you are instructed to by the officer.
According to that same article in the Forbes magazine, you should exchange your name and contact information, insurance company and policy number, drivers license and license plate number, type, color and model of vehicle and the location of the accident.
If the driver of the other vehicle approaches you with a side deal, it is important that you don’t accept or pay cash for the accident. Even if the other driver offers you a significant amount of money or if they claim they don’t have insurance.
Scott Holeman, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, advises against making a “handshake deal” as that could lead to potential major expenses for you to pay down the line.
Getting information from the other car in the accident is important, even if there is no damage to either car. This can insure that you are protected later on if something goes wrong that you cannot see in the moment.
“You may not always know the extent of damage—to your car or your body—immediately after an automobile accident,” Holeman said.

Contacting your insurance agency
Starting an insurance claim is an important step in this process. You want to contact them as soon as possible as there may be a deadline for filing your claim on this accident.
“Your insurer, or the other driver’s insurer, will likely want to inspect your vehicle to prepare a damage estimate,” says Robert Passmore, vice president of auto and claims policy at American Property Casualty Insurance Association to Forbes magazine. “If your car is still drivable, you may be asked to visit a drive-in claims center, a collision repair shop affiliated with the insurer, or make use of remote inspection tools such as a smartphone app.”

Avoiding car accidents
This information might never apply to you but it is crucial to knowing what to do. Preventing a car crash is one of the easiest and hardest things you can do. The best thing to do is to focus on your driving and always watching the roads so that you can possibly prepare to react to something that may come your way.
Around 28 percent of accidents in 2021 involved a young driver (age 16-24). About 18 percent of all accidents involved some sort of distracted driving or illegal substances.
“[The best way to avoid an accident] Don’t use your phone,” Zalewski said. “Reduce your distracted driving. When I was in high school, it was a cool thing to pack your car full of all your friends blaring the music but that’s a distraction, because you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the car.”
Zalewski says that when you are blaring music you are not focused on the road, therefore if a car pulls out in front of you that reduces your reaction time to avoid a collision.

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Source Five: Wyandotte Chief of Police Brian Zalewski