By Trooper Gary Cutler
At one time or another most of us have found ourselves in a bad situation that we have never experienced before; so what do you do in those situations? Keeping calm and safe is the best advice I have for you.
So, if you ever experience a crash try to keep calm. Check on your passengers to see if they are okay, and then check on the occupants of the other vehicle if there is one involved. A lot of times people feel they need to exit the vehicle immediately. You have just had a very traumatic situation happen and you may not be thinking clearly. Before you exit the vehicle, check your surroundings. Is it safe to do so? Is there traffic going by? Are there power lines down? Look to see if there is anything in the area that can cause you additional injury.
There are times when exiting the vehicle is paramount. The vehicle is on fire. The vehicle is in peril of sliding down a large embankment, or the vehicle is in deep water. But these are situations that don’t happen as often as the other concerns.
Once you’ve done that, see if your vehicle is in a safe place. Is it on a blind curve or hill that other traffic may not see until it’s too late? If there are no injuries or impairment involved and if both vehicles are drivable, then safely drive them to a shoulder, off-ramp, side street, or the best spot to relocate to is a parking lot. If that is not an option, then look at the possibility that staying in the vehicle is better than being outside and being hit by a passing car.
Now if you’ve gotten this far because there were no injuries to anyone, it’s time to call law enforcement. Be prepared to tell them your location; a mile marker, cross the street, or you may just have to give them the closest town and the direction you are traveling. Then tell them how many cars are involved. Inform the dispatcher whether or not the vehicles are blocking the roadway. Are there any injuries? If power lines are down, are they in the roadway or close to the scene and will be dangerous for rescuers. It’s best for them to call the power company early to shut the power off so rescuers don’t have to wait for them and can get to save you. The dispatcher may want more information than you think they need.
Here is where staying calm is very important. Realize the dispatcher is working as fast as they can, but they need to make sure they have the right information to get the correct help to you. Usually, there are others in the dispatch center working on notifying emergency personnel of the crash while you are talking to your dispatcher. So just because they are on the line with you, doesn’t mean nothing is being done to get help to you. Dispatchers are your lifeline as well as your friend in these types of situations. They will do whatever they can to get you the proper help.
Now, this is not an absolute guide on what to do if you are in a crash since each situation is different and may require you to take different actions; so keep that in mind if you ever experience a crash. But the one thing that won’t change in any situation is the importance of keeping calm and safe. Here’s to no one ever having to experience a crash, but if you do, you now have a little more information on what to do.
As always, safe travels!