Rock Talk

What to Do When You Witness a Car Accident

Last updated on November 30, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Being in a car accident can be frightening. I know because I’ve had my fair share; one being a potentially fatal accident that I was fortunate enough to walk away from. I had been trained as an emergency responder but in that moment I was scared and in shock. I was used to helping others; not myself. So I was lucky to have several witnesses stop to help. The time between an accident occurring and emergency personnel arriving can feel like a lifetime.

Plymouth Rock Assurance has shared tips on how to prevent accidents and what to do if you’re involved in an accident. But what should you do when you witness an accident? Here are some tips on what to do if you see or come upon an accident and first responders have yet to arrive:

  1. Slow down and pull over, leaving a path for emergency vehicles. If you’re in a vehicle, turn your hazard lights on to warn other drivers.
  2. Call 911 and stay calm. If you can, quickly check on how many victims there are and what condition they’re in. Keep your description to 911 short and to the point. Be sure to know where you are. If you don’t know, look for landmarks, signs or ask a bystander if one is present.
  3. If you know how to help, then do so while you wait for first responders (ex: give CPR). If you don’t know how, do whatever else you can, like calming any injured people. This could be as simple as telling them help is on the way. If you can’t do any of that: Wait. Do not remove victims from the car unless they’re in immediate danger, like a fire.
  4. If people are in immediate danger from fire and you are able, carefully remove them from the automobile. Remember moving an individual with injuries may risk paralysis or death, so only attempt to move someone if danger is imminent, such as their car being on fire; otherwise wait for emergency crews to arrive. Never mention to victims if another person has died. It could cause them to act rashly and cause additional injuries to themselves or others.
  5. Hang tight. When the first responders get there, quickly and clearly ask what you can do to help. Do whatever they say, even if they tell you to stand aside.
  6. Check in before checking out. Check in with an officer before leaving the scene. They’ll most likely take your information and want to know what happened if you witnessed the actual accident.

If you’re not familiar with first aid or CPR or it’s been a while and you need a refresher, check with your employer to see if they offer free classes. Local hospitals may offer free courses as well. The Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer courses for a fee, but it is definitely worth it.

Even though my accident blocked off a major roadway, there were still people who simply turned around and drove off right after it happened. Maybe they called 911; maybe they didn’t. Accidents can be scary after all. But being prepared and knowing what to do can make a big difference to those involved.

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