It’s the thing that most people dread: being involved in a collision between your vehicle and something else. If it happens, it can be easy to lose control and forget everything you are supposed to do. Regardless of who is to blame or how serious the accident is, there are things that you need to do.
As soon as an incident occurs:
- As soon as you can and it is safe to do so, stop the car. No matter how serious or minor the collision was, or whose fault it was, if you drive away from the scene, you are committing an offence.
- Once you have pulled over, switch your engine off and turn your hazard lights on.
- Take a breath. Even minor collisions can be scary, so unless there is immediate danger, give yourself ten seconds to calm down before checking yourself and your fellow passengers for injuries.
- Check anyone else involved in the collision to see if they are hurt. Even if everyone is OK, double check and make a note.
- If anyone is injured, call 999 or use an SOS phone to call for an ambulance.
- If you call an ambulance, the police will come automatically. However, if nobody is injured but the road is blocked or you think drink or drugs may have caused the collision, or the collision was deliberate, call the police.
- As long as you are able to do so, remove all passengers (including pets) from the vehicle and make sure that they are taken to a space that is safe. If you are on a motorway, this could be off the hard shoulder, on the verge. If you are in an urban area, they may be able to wait in a café or someone’s home.
- Speak to the other people involved in the collision and get their name, address and car registration. If you have a working smartphone with you, take pictures of the number plate and any damage to all vehicles involved.
- It is not unusual for people involved in collisions to apologise instinctively. However, if you are involved in an RTC, (road traffic collision), apologising could give the impression that you take responsibility for the incident. This could impact your insurance premium in the future. As counter intuitive as it may seem, avoid apologising. Be civil and make sure that everyone involved is safe, but let the police or the insurance company deal with the question of blame and liability.
The reason that the police call an RTC a collision, rather than an accident, is that an accident implies that someone is to blame. In some instances, nobody is to blame for a collision. It is important to remember not to panic, not to assign - or accept - blame, but to deal with the facts in the first instance and let the professionals deal with the rest later.