What To Do If You Witness A Vehicle Accident


The summer travel season is upon us, but no matter what the season, it helps to be reminded of guidelines to follow should you happen to witness a vehicle accident or be one of the first ones to the scene.  Allegheny Mountain Radio spoke with Highland County Sheriff David Neil about what to do in case you find yourself in this type of emergency situation.

Sheriff Neil says, “Witnessing a car accident first-hand requires a calm, cool and collected response under traumatic circumstances.  Your course of action will largely depend on the severity of the crash and the extent of the injuries, but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind.  By following these tips, you’ll be better prepared to help your fellow drivers until the professional emergency responders arrive.

Always ensure your safety first.  If you are driving when you spot a car crash, pull over to the side of the road at least 100 feet if possible from the scene and put on your hazard lights.  You want to give enough distance so you don’t put yourself in danger of broken glass, leaked fuel, or flames.

Call 911.  Never assume that someone else already called 911.  Even if the wreck doesn’t appear severe, the authorities should be notified.  Let the 911 operator know you have witnessed a car accident, the location, the number of people involved and other pertinent details.  If there’s no cell phone service in the area, try to find someone else to send for help.

Check in on the victims.  Once you’ve ensured that it’s safe to approach the scene, check on the condition of the crash victims to make sure they are okay, and offer help, if you are able.  Unless there’s a risk of the vehicle catching fire or some other emergency, do not under any circumstance move an injured person.  Despite your best intentions, you could accidentally make the injury worse.  Let the trained medical professionals tend to the injuries, but you can provide comfort by reassuring victims that help is on the way.

Next, stabilize the vehicle if you can.  If the accident is minor, ask the driver to put the impacted vehicle in ‘park’ and turn off the ignition.  This will eliminate the risk of fire, especially since chances are good that the crash has caused an oil, fuel or coolant leak.  If it’s safe to do so, enlist help to move the car out of further harm’s way and to leave space for other vehicles and emergency responders.  If that’s not possible, set up flares or traffic triangles to warn other drivers of the accident.

And give a statement and provide your contact information when the police arrive.  Provide the relevant facts and your contact information.  In the days and weeks following the event, you may be contacted as a witness by legal and medical authorities and/or insurance claims agents.  Be honest, factual, and consistent with your statements.”

It is also suggested to write down your recollection of the event soon after it occurred when it is fresh in your mind.  This can be a helpful reminder several months or even years down the line if you are asked by medical, legal or insurance agents about what you witnessed.

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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