What do you do when you encounter a car accident?

If you’re the first to arrive at a car accident, you must be prepared to help, without putting yourself or others in danger. Though the collision has already occurred, there’s always potential for the accident to escalate, especially if it occurred near a busy roadway or at night. 

Two Drivers Arguing After Traffic Accident

Unless you’re a trained professional, helping with a car accident can be an unclear rush to the wrong activities. Sometimes, even when you think you’re helping, you may actually be endangering yourself and the victims involved. We’re here to add some clarity to a confused and potentially dangerous situation, so here are five tips on what you should do when you see a car accident.

1. Pull over at a safe distance

If you’re driving when you witness an accident, pull over completely, turn off your vehicle, and put on your four way lights. Your four-ways help emergency responders locate a car crash, and let drivers know to slow down. Make sure to leave enough room between your car and the accident for emergency vehicles to position themselves properly, 30 metres if possible.

2. Call 9-1-1

Your top priority after you’ve pulled over is to call 911. Calling as quickly as possible can help save a life, and they can offer helpful advice to you based on your description of the scene. Before you call, you should look for landmarks to indicate where you are, or use a GPS and get your exact coordinates. Try to relay your location and any information the 9-1-1 operator requests in a concise and calm manner.  

3. Turn off the ignition of the crashed car

Focus on establishing that the ignitions of all involved vehicles have been turned off. This not only reduces the risk of fires, but also prepares you to start thinking on behalf of a driver who may or may not be conscious. However, getting close to a crashed car may simply be too dangerous. Traffic levels, time of day, and the severity of the accident are all factors you must consider when assessing an situation. If you don’t feel safe, remain in your car until emergency responders arrive. 

4. Don’t move any injured persons

Neck, head and spine injuries are common in car crashes and require professional care. Moving someone from a car is never advised, as it can cause permanent damage to the victim, such as a concussion or even loss of mobility. Only consider moving a victim if there is an immediate threat to their safety, such as a fire.

If a driver is conscious make sure to ask them if they want help. Although lawsuits against good Samaritans are rare, it is best to not do anything against someone’s wishes.

5. Be prepared to give a statement

When help arrives, you might be asked to provide a description of what happened. Your account of the accident could be needed in court so be honest and try to recall the situation as clearly as possible.  Taking pictures of the accident can help to backup your claim and remember to note the time when you saw the accident.

Hopefully our five tips have given you a better idea of what you should do when you see a car crash. Remember, your role as a witness is to safely assist or protect victims until emergency assistance arrives. Don’t try to treat any injuries unless you are trained in first aid.

Calling 9-1-1 is the most important thing you can do, even if you think someone else might have called – it’s better to have five calls for an accident than none. For more information on first aid techniques relevant to car accidents, follow this link here.