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Insight from WFPD: What to do when a traffic crash occurs

Being in a traffic crash can be emotionally disturbing and even life threatening for all involved. When the vehicles finally come to rest following the crash, the incident is far from over. There is the possibility of being struck by other vehicles on the roadway. There may be injuries to the vehicle's occupants. And there is a need to contact emergency personnel to render aid and law enforcement officials to conduct a crash investigation.

Immediately following a crash, be aware of any potential threats at the scene. Is there a fire present or are leaking fluids present? Are there downed electrical wires or is the vehicle in contact with an electrical or gas service? What other traffic is present and can approaching traffic clearly see the crash site? Continue to monitor the scene for changing conditions that may prove threatening.

Try to determine if anyone within your vehicle has been injured. If you are able, check others who may have been involved in the crash. If you have been trained, assist with medical treatment of the injured. Do not move an injured person unless they are in immediate danger.

Contact emergency personnel by dialing 911. Explain your location, how many vehicles and persons were involved and the extent of any injuries. Some of the newer model vehicles are equipped with crash sensors and hands-free communications systems that automatically contact emergency personnel. Do not depend on them to make the call for you.

Assist arriving emergency personnel by directing them to the most seriously injured and by pointing out any existing dangerous conditions. Each responder has a focus and the scene will become congested and very busy. Remain in a safe area and do as you are directed.

You will be asked to provide information to law enforcement about yourself, your vehicle and your passengers. Always carry your operator's license and have available in your vehicle a copy of the registration card and insurance card. You will also need to share this information with the other driver involved in the crash. Your insurance agent will ask you for the other driver's information so make sure you get that also.

The officer will ask additional information from you to determine where you were coming from; where you were going to; and what you were doing at the time of the crash. This information will be used to try to determine a cause for the crash. The officer will also inspect your vehicle for damage and may take photographs and make measurements. The officer will also review the surrounding area to see if an existing condition contributed in anyway to the crash.

If you are involved in a crash resulting in what you believe to be only minor damage, it is in your best interest to contact law enforcement anyway to do a report. The law requires a report for any crash involving more than $1000 in damage. New cars are constructed with modular components each alone costing hundreds of dollars. Almost every crash will meet the $1000 reporting threshold. When called to the scene of the crash, an officer has the ability to gather all the evidence related to the crash. Delayed reporting can prevent a report that accurately depicts what took place.

At times the other driver may attempt to persuade you to not contact law enforcement. The other driver may have any number of reasons why they do not want you to make that call. The driver may have a suspended operator's license or may have been drinking. There may not be insurance on the vehicle or the vehicle could contain illegal items. The driver or a passenger may be wanted. Having an officer on scene to identify the persons involved can assist you on insurance claims later.

Do not be pressured to admit fault for the crash or to make an on-the-scene settlement for damage. If you feel threatened by one of the others involved in the crash, call 911 and lock yourself in your vehicle. If necessary, request assistance from other persons in the area. Note the extent and location of damage on the other vehicle. Take photos if you have a camera available. This will discourage false claims which may later arise.

Most insurance companies provide a "crash kit" with helpful information if you are involved in a collision. Make yourself knowledgeable of the information provided so you can respond correctly. Let your insurance company know as soon as possible after being involved in a crash. You will be requested to provide the date, time and location of the crash. You will also need to provide the law enforcement agency that investigated the crash and information on the other driver and vehicle.

The chance of being involved in a crash can be lessened by obeying the traffic laws; by paying close attention to the conditions around you; and by driving defensively. Reduce the risk of injury by wearing your seat belt and insisting your passengers do the same. Do not drink and drive or drive when you are fatigued. Stay alert and stay alive.