• Kenneth Yohe; Oregon/Washington Licensed PI

Steps to prepare for a Traffic Crash

In my Law Enforcement career of 29 years, I have investigated 100's of traffic crashes. The normal person driving around is just not used to being involved in a traumatic or extremely stressful situation. During a crash, you may become disorientated, injured, or just so overwhelmed that it is hard to think of things to do. It is with this in mind, I write this as something for you to think about and a way to prepare incase the situation arrives where you are involved in a traffic crash. You will notice that I use the word crash; true traffic crash investigations determine that most often someone is at fault. It is with this in mind that I make the following recommendations. The following are steps that can be taken before, during, and after a crash:


The first thing to do is make sure that you have a holder for your insurance card, registration card, a crash exchange of information form, a pen, a checklist of things to do, a scratch piece of paper, and an emergency contact card, (This can be your crash-kit). If you or a loved one are involved in a serious injury crash and are unconscious, Police and Fire will normally look in your glove compartment for these documents. I suggest putting them in a plastic holder that might even be water proof. I lost count of how many times a car was upside down and items from the glove compartment came out in the rain. Also, having the items in a known location will help you, if you ever get pulled over on a traffic stop. We used to say, put a disposable camera in the car which still might not be a bad idea. Normally you can just take pictures with your phone. But, what happens if the phone gets lost because the vehicle rolls over? If you can, maybe have a spare camera somewhere in the car in case of an emergency.

Another part of preparation, is for you to talk with family members that might drive your vehicle. Roll-play with them some different scenarios from minor traffic crashes in a parking lot, to crashes on streets, or crashes where they may be injured. Talk with them about different steps they should take at a crash scene. Show them the registration, insurance, exchange of information sheet; and then talk with them about how to fill them out and what information to give. Talk to them about the importance of being safe at the scene and to watch out for other traffic on the road. Also talk with them about different photos that should be taken. Roll-playing is a way for them to think about a situation before it occurs and then draw from the experience when they are dealing with reality.

Steps during a crash

Most of these have identical steps from minor crashes to injury crashes. Steps to take for the following types of crashes:

1) Non-Injury Crash:

First make sure that everyone involved is not injured; this includes all passengers. Next, make sure the vehicles are off to the side of the road or not blocking if it is possible to move them. If possible, call 911 to let them know that you are involved in a crash and whether you need police or fire. If its a non-serious crash; this could be important information for responders who may not know how serious the crash is. This step could save a first responders life that may be driving lights and sirens to get to your location. The next step if the crash is not serious, is to provide your registration information, insurance, and your contact information to the other driver. It is also important to identify any witnesses along with their contact information. Take a lot of pictures of the scene, the damaged vehicles, location on or off the roadway, and mailboxes or addresses that are close. As soon as possible, call and notify your insurance company and give them any information that they need. Finally, make sure to file an accident report in the required timeframe of your State. Refer to your specific State regarding reporting requirements of a crash.

2) Injury Crash:

If you are the injured person and you are in a populated area, it is best to stay seated in your vehicle and try not to move. If you can, make sure that you let someone know you are injured and that 911 should be called. Wait for medical personnel to arrive and let them assess your condition. They are also trained in how to extract you from from a vehicle to minimize injury. If you are involved in a single vehicle crash, call 911 and let them know where you are located and then try and assess if it is safe to stay in the vehicle. If a condition exists that makes it unsafe to be in the vehicle, try and get yourself out and away from the vehicle in a safe location. Let 911 know you need to get out of the car and where you are if possible. In this situation, notify emergency personnel where your insurance, registration, and emergency contact list are located. If emergency responders are called, it is highly likely that you will be transported to a hospital. The above steps will have to take care of themselves until a family member can assist.

Steps after a crash

Communicate with your insurance company or your Attorney. Make sure to file your crash report in a timely manner. Remember that just because a Police Officer takes a report, does not necessarily mean that your reporting requirements have been met. Check with your State as to the reporting requirements for a traffic crash. Having been seriously injured in a crash, follow the recommendations of your Doctor and work hard to get better.

This blog is meant to get you thinking about how to prepare for a crash so that you are ready incase the event ever happens. The suggestions I make are based on 100's of traffic crashes that I have personally responded to and investigated as a Deputy Sheriff. None of the advise that I'm giving is legal in a nature as, I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. The most important thing for you to do is to prepare by having the appropriate crash kit (Documents) in your vehicle and talking with your family about things they should do in different scenarios.

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