Most people don’t think about getting into a car accident when they’re behind the wheel, and certainly, no one wants to. But, statistically speaking, your chances of getting into some kind of accident on the road in your lifetime are pretty high. There are about 6 million car accidents in the U.S. each year.
While not every accident is tragic or fatal, it can feel incredibly scary and serious to the person going through it. Even if you’re involved in a simple “fender bender,” you might feel shaken for a while afterward. Unfortunately, preventing accidents completely isn’t possible. You could be the safest driver in the world and follow all the best safety tips like not using your cell phone, wearing your seatbelt, and driving defensively, but your real safety often depends on other drivers on the road.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting into an accident. If you do find yourself in an accident, there are also practical ways to get through it calmly, so you can move on quickly.
Check Your Emotions and Follow the Rules
If you’ve been in an accident, it’s easy for your emotions to take over instantly. A thousand things might be running through your head from making sure you and your passengers are okay, to wondering what the cost of the damages will be, to worrying about the other people involved. It can feel even more overwhelming for teenagers who just recently got their license.
It might sound silly to say now, but the most important thing you can do is to stay calm. Once you’ve retained control of your vehicle, take a few deep breaths and take a minute for yourself to make sure you’re focused. Try to hold your emotions back for a moment instead of letting them go, so that you can take stock of the situation and ensure you’re taking all the right steps to protect yourself moving forward. Never leave the scene of a car accident, even if it’s minor or even if you’re scared. Doing this is called a “hit and run,” and it’s illegal in most states.
Make sure the rest of your passengers are okay, and if they are, call the police to report the accident. While they’re on their way, you can get out of your vehicle and assess any damage. This is also a good time to check on other drivers involved to make sure they’re okay and to exchange insurance information. You should also take as many pictures of the damage as possible for your own insurance company. Do not move your vehicle right away and take pictures of the accident exactly how it happened — unless you are in direct danger by leaving your car where it is, in which you should navigate off the road as safely as possible.
Major vs. Minor Accidents
In the event of a minor accident, following the steps above is usually the best thing to do until authorities arrive and can help you work out the rest. But, a major accident is a bit different. You might not be able to move your car safely to the side of the road. Sometimes, people may even be hurt.
In these instances, it’s important to know the information for your local first responders, especially EMTs who can come to the scene of the crash and offer medical attention to those who need it. Police officers will also usually come to the scene and may block off a section of the road from other traffic so they can focus on the accident.
Major accidents where cars are totaled or injuries are involved can be more difficult to get through emotionally, but the advice listed earlier in this article still remains; take a few deep breaths and focus on the situation at hand. It’s okay if you need some help to get through it, but staying calm during the accident itself will help to keep you and everyone around you safer.
Preventing Accidents in the Future
It would be nice if everyone followed the rules of the road, was never distracted while driving, and traffic always ran smoothly, right? It’s probably safe to say if you’ve ever been behind the wheel, you know none of that is realistic.
Still, following those rules knowing your surroundings at all times can reduce your chances of getting into an accident. Things like using your seatbelt every time you get in the car, driving at a safe distance from the cars around you, and never getting distracted with things like a cellphone, eating, putting on makeup, etc. can help you to be safe on the road. These are also all great tips to show your teen drivers as a role model for them, so they know how to be safe on the road too.
Perhaps the only thing more important than not driving distracted is not driving while you’re drowsy or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. About 21% of fatal car crashes involve a drowsy driver. So, if you’re not fully awake or fully aware, don’t get behind the wheel.
Finally, be aware of road conditions when you’re driving. Pay attention to areas of construction, and drive more cautiously during inclement weather. If you live in an area that has harsh winters, understand that driving defensively and carefully on icy roads could mean the difference between getting to your destination or sliding into a slippery situation.
By keeping some of these suggestions in mind, you can stay calm during a car accident and focus on getting back on the road safely and confidently.
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