Any car accident, no matter the point of impact, is frightening and inconvenient. But rear-end accidents (frequently referred to as fender benders) are a common occurrence on the road and form a significant proportion of all road collisions. According to a report on the Science Daily website, there were nearly two million rear-end collisions in 2006, comprising nearly 30% of all crashes on U.S. roads. Here’s how to deal if you rear-end another vehicle on the road.
First Things First
In the event that you rear-end the car in front of you, you will likely be very dazed or shocked, especially initially. Unless there are life-threatening reasons why you must exit the vehicle immediately, try to pause for a moment in an effort to gather your breath and calm down. You will need to be able to make a number of decisions related to the situation, and the clearer your head, the more likely you are to act appropriately.
Your first consideration must always be to the welfare and safety of yourself and your passengers, as well as the passengers in any other vehicle involved in the accident. According to the severity of the accident, the range of personal injuries caused by rear-end collisions can be significant, ranging from bruises and grazes to whiplash, broken bones, and even death. When you rear-end a car, the impact from your vehicle is transferred to the car in front, lifting passengers and drivers sharply forwards and upwards at the same time. Whiplash injuries are common, difficult to treat, and may not be immediately obvious. If you are in any doubt as to the severity of any injury incurred during the collision, call the emergency services and request an ambulance. Some injuries can be worsened if the injured party is moved awkwardly, for example.
When exiting the vehicle, ensure that you and your passengers can move to a safe place, away from any remaining traffic. Move completely off the road or highway, and as far away from the vehicles as you can. If the impact is minor, you may be able to drive the vehicle to the side of the road, or onto a side road, but remember that, in some states, it is illegal to move your car from the scene of a collision until the police have attended, so don’t do anything hasty. Regardless of where your car is, ensure that when leaving the vehicle you do not exit into moving traffic. Pay particular attention to children or animals, who may be frightened by the collision, and will require additional supervision.
If you have an emergency kit, use this to alert other drivers to your vehicle. Ensure that the engine is turned off, that your hazard lights are on and that you have placed emergency cones or warning triangles at an appropriate distance from the car.
Road traffic safety regulations stipulate that, regardless of the driving conditions, you must be able to stop safely if the car in front of you comes to a halt, even if that car brakes very sharply. It is only in the event that a vehicle rear-ends your vehicle, causing you to shunt into the car in front, that your insurance company will not conclude that the accident was your fault. Like any other type of collision, you will need to surrender your insurance and driver details to the other driver. Even if you are assuming that the accident was your fault, you will need to collect the other driver’s details, too. You will need their license number, their name, address, phone number, insurance company, insurance policy number, and license plate number. You should also establish whether the other driver owns the vehicle.
If possible, and if it is safe to do so, take photographs of the accident scene, showing the road conditions, the position of the cars, and any specific damage noted. Remember that most modern mobile phones include a camera. Insurance companies suggest that you do not admit liability (and that could mean not even apologizing). They also often request detailed descriptions of what happened and the scene of the incident, so try and write down some notes.
Once you have established that nobody needs medical attention, taken all the relevant details, and the police have attended the scene (if necessary), you will need to think about taking your car away. A breakdown recovery service may be needed if the damage is extensive, but you should also contact your insurance company as soon as possible, as they may have specific instructions on where to take your vehicle, outlining which dealers can and cannot carry out any necessary repair work.
A rear-end collision may be inconvenient and embarrassing, and it could even be traumatic and dangerous. Keep a cool head, complete all the steps necessary to ensure the safety of your passengers, and ensure that you comply with both the law and the requirements of your insurance company to insure that it doesn’t escalate into a bigger problem.