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What happens if I'm involved in an accident?


Owe Carter



What happens if I'm involved in an accident?

We hope that you’re never involved in a collision while driving. Even the most minor bash can be a stressful experience, especially if other people are involved. For this reason, it’s best to remain as calm as you can, and know what you need to do.

Luckily, we’re here to give you a pep talk. And for further reference, you can check out rule 283 of The Highway Code, which covers what to do if you’re involved in an accident.

Did you know? Driving professionals prefer the term ‘collision’ to ‘accident’. This is because ‘accident’ implies it couldn’t be prevented. In theory, if everyone was a 100% safe driver, collisions shouldn’t occur.

What happens if I’m involved in a minor prang?

If you’re ever involved in a collision, hopefully there’ll be minimal damage, and no one will be hurt. But you should always stop and take appropriate steps.

First of all, you should stop somewhere safe. It doesn’t matter if it’s somewhere with parking restrictions, such as double yellow lines… So long as you’re not creating any danger, or causing an obstruction.

When you’ve stopped safely, put on your hazard lights, and switch off the engine.

Check that everyone involved is OK. We’ll go into what to do if anyone’s injured shortly.

The next step is to exchange details with any other road users involved in the collision. So tell them your main deets such as name, address and phone number. If you have your car insurance details to hand, let them know these too – such as the insurance provider and your policy number.

You should also get the same details from all road users involved. In addition, note their car’s make and model, registration and colour.

If anyone involved won’t give you their details, or tries to leave, there’s something iffy going on. At this point, call the police. Leaving the scene of an accident is a criminal offence, even if it’s just a minor knock.

To help with any insurance claim, take snaps on your phone. Get some images showing any damage caused, and the position of the vehicles. It’s also worth noting the conditions, such as the weather, or anything which may have contributed to the collision. If the road’s not very well lit, or in poor condition, jot it down.

It’s also a good idea to get the contact details of any witnesses, if you can. This could be a total life-saver later, such as if the other person involved contests your account of what happened.

After you’ve finished at the scene, head to your destination, and then take a bit of time out. Even if it’s not a serious collision, you’ve still been involved a stressful situation, and your mental health is important. Don’t engage in anything too demanding afterwards, and take a bit of time to decompress.

Finally, when you’ve had a bit of time to recover, contact your insurer to tell them about the collision. Even if you don’t want to make a claim, it’s a good idea to do this. For one thing, you don’t know whether the other party involved might make a claim.

And sometimes, collisions might be more serious than they first appear. For example, a bumper might show little external signs of damage, but may still need replacing. Or injuries may only become apparent later.

What should I do if it’s a more serious crash?

A more serious incident might be one where one of the vehicles is no longer drivable, or someone’s injured.

First of all, if you can’t move your car and it’s causing an obstruction, you’ll need to dial 999 and inform the police straight away.

Whether your car was involved, or if you’ve just stopped to help out, warn other road users by putting your hazard lights on.

You should only get out of the car if it’s safe to do so. If you do, check everyone’s OK first and foremost. You might need to call 101 if someone’s injured, or 999 if someone’s injured seriously. It’ll be helpful to the emergency services if you can provide an exact location, and what injuries have been sustained.

Unless they’re in danger of fire or explosion, you shouldn’t move anybody who’s been injured. In particular, if someone’s been knocked over on their motorbike, don’t take off their helmet. If you know how, you may have to administer first aid. This is a worthwhile skill to have.

In order to make sure the scene is as safe as possible, ask any drivers to switch off their engines if they haven’t done so. And also make sure that no one’s smoking.

Finally, don’t leave the scene until the emergency services arrive, at the earliest. As a witness, you may be able to provide valuable assistance.

What should I do if I’m in an accident on the motorway?

Being in a collision on the motorway can be especially dangerous, as generally the traffic will be moving a lot quicker than on other roads. For this reason, it’s best to be as careful as possible, and don’t take any risks.

If you are involved in an incident on the motorway, and it’s safe to do so, get over to the hard shoulder. Park up, turn off the engine, and switch on your hazard lights.

If you can’t get your car to the hard shoulder, switch on your hazard lights. Only get out of the car if you’re absolutely sure it’s safe to get across the carriageway. While it may seem dangerous to stay in a stationary car on the motorway, you’ll be easier to spot than if you’re on foot, and your car has crumple zones. Whether you stay in the car or make it to the hard shoulder, the next thing you should do is call 999 straight away.

If you have mobile reception, tell the emergency services the details from the nearest marker post on the hard shoulder. This way, they’ll be able to pinpoint your location. If you don’t have reception, using one of the SOS phones will also let them know where you are.

Remember we said take no risks? This also goes for other people involved. If there’s anybody stuck in other vehicles, don’t try to rescue them. You won’t help by putting yourself in danger too. The emergency services are trained for these scenarios, so you’re better off leaving things to them.

Otherwise, you should take the same steps as above.

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