The thing about accidents, of course, is they’re unpredictable. They just kind of happen – usually at a time (and in a place) that’s not convenient. They are also stressful – and that’s pretty much when our capacity to make good decisions is at a low ebb.
Which is why it’s a good idea to be ready – as you can be – for an accident before it happens.
* Prepping your car –
Keep a notepad and pencil (not a pen; they dry up) in the console or glovebox so you’ll have something to write details about the accident on. Not just the where and when but the circumstances; things you might forget but which could be very helpful to remember later – in court, or when wrangling with the insurance people.
Use you cell phone to take pictures of everything. Not just the damage to your car and the other car, but also the position of the cars as well as things like skid marks in the road and signage (especially if obscured by leaves/tree branches, etc.)
Some people keep a GoPro or similar video rig running at all times. These cameras – which are not big ticket expensive – can really save your bacon if someone blows a light or runs a stop sign and denies it after they pile-drive into your car.
Keep real flares in the trunk. Not the ludicrous electric/reflective ones that many new cars now come with but flares that burn bright. People otherwise addled by their sail fawns tend to notice burning flares – and that could avoid a second accident.
A high-powered flashlight is another smart thing to keep handy. Because accidents sometimes happen at night.
* Prepare yourself –
The best way to avoid being involved in an accident is to assume you’ll be involved in an accident.
Paranoia – about other drivers – is smart policy.
Put another way, drive distrustfully.
Don’t assume that because the light is green, the intersection is clear. Right-of-way may help you later, as far as recovering damages – but it won’t do squat as far as helping you avoid being damaged in the first place if someone blows through a red light and straight into you.
Don’t enter an intersection without looking left and right –and then left again.
Scan your mirrors constantly – especially your rearview mirror when stopped in traffic. You may notice an SUV whose driver hasn’t noticed that traffic is stopped is bearing down on you at high speed . . . in time to get the hell out of its way.
Or at least brace for the impact.
Think about where you’d try to point the car if you had to swerve or leave the road suddenly. Notice things like big trees – so you can avoid piling into them head on, if you have to veer off the road. Look for soft landings – or at least, softer landings, such as grassy berms, fields and so on – to minimize possible injury and damage to your vehicle.
Practice emergency braking in order to become familiar with how your vehicle reacts – and how long it takes your car to come to a complete stop. Even though all new cars and most cars built since the late ’90s have anti-lock brakes and so won’t skid, you won’t really have a sense for how long it takes them to stop until you give it a go.
* Post-accident protocol –
Ok, someone just rear-ended you – despite your best efforts to avoid it. What’s next?
Even in”no fault” states, it’s a good idea to not give the guy who hit you the opportunity to obscure what led to the bent metal. Other drivers will be annoyed because you are blocking traffic, but you will have to decide whether suffering their scowls is worse than the insurance mafia deciding the accident was your fault and not the other guy’s. Or not finding fault with either of you – but both of you getting the bill (in the form of higher insurance premiums).
Keep in mind that they can and will hold an accident against you for years – even sometimes when it wasn’t your fault.
Call the cops – in order to get an official accident report. Your insurance company will want this. It will help your case if the other driver is issued a ticket for failure to yield or running a light.
If the cops do not show – and the cars are drivable – you can legally leave the scene after exchanging information with the other driver. Give – and get – their full name and address from their driver’s license, noting which state the license was issued by. Get their insurance info – policy and expiration date.
Be sure to get the expiration date.
If the other driver can’t produce insurance paperwork or the policy is expired, this is the time to tell the other driver you won’t narc him out to the cops if he can produce cash money right now to cover the cost of the damage done to your vehicle. You are being very cool by making this offer because driving without valid insurance is a pretty big bust in most states.
If it’s just a minor fender bender – and regardless of fault and even if both of you are covered – it can be very smart to offer to pay for the damages out of pocket (and to accept such an offer) rather than go through insurance. Paying a couple hundred bucks to settle things between yourselves beats paying several hundred bucks more every year for the next several years to the insurance mafia.
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What about taking a photo of the VIN of the other car or cars in the accident?
I remember from my college days in New Jersey how the drivers there loved to brake-check, especially in the Turnpike, hoping you’d rear-end them. They’d also make right turns in front of you, forcing you to slam on your brakes. Being rear-ended was the Golden Ticket apparently. Fuckin’ New Jersey: always trying to scam somebody. I learned to drive as if everybody was trying to intentionally wreck me just to get a seven figure settlement. I can’t help but cringe every time I see someone creep up on a stop sign on my right. But you can’t drive scared: that’s a guarantee you’ll get run over. So you have to play the game to keep from playing it. It’s a vicious, never-ending circle.
I used to really love driving.
Some places have “Is it driveable? Move it off the road immediately” laws. Whether to ignore those laws and wait for the cops anyway is left as an exercise for the reader.
A good dash cam should run on an endless loop, GPS telemetry overlay, automagically start when powered. Many have an accelerometer that will create a separate file of the few minutes before and after a high G event. I would avoid using a cell phone or networked device as a dash cam due to the potential for being hacked or you being compelled to give up your password.
This one is no longer available, and I had to buy a separate GPS module but otherwise is pretty good:
For less than $200 I have a pretty good data logger. I figure if one of the King’s animals commits suicide by jumping out in front of me I will have pretty good evidence that I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary should someone question the accident. Downside is it could potentially be used to rat me out for speeding or other “offense” but as long as it’s under my control that shouldn’t be a problem.
> I would avoid using a cell phone or networked device as a dash cam due to the potential for being hacked or you being compelled to give up your password.
ReadyKilowatt – I Have have a link on every page of my (not so) smart phone called Fivo. It uploads directly to my DropBox. Furthermore, I do not know the passwords to my devices. I keep them in separate text files on my desktop computer. Furthermore, even if I did know the password(s), there is no way I would give them up unless a warrant specifically names the devices in which the snoops want to snoop. And, then, maybe even then a polite response like, “Kiss my ass”.
In the advent an event occurs where “it could rat you out” – that is when you should take your cue from the incorruptible po-lice.. the camera’s memory card “fell out” and was lost – the cameras never worked anyway…
There is no such thing as an accident. There is always fault, always. Not paying attention, not looking left, right, left at ALL intersections, following too close, not maintaining adequate forward vision and the list goes on and on. There is however a way for you to avoid being in an “accident” and that is memorizing and putting into action the UPS 5 keys to space and visibility and 10 point commentary. Here is a link to them https://quizlet.com/131930037/ups-5-seeing-habits-and-10-point-commentary-flash-cards/
Great advice as always Eric, thanks for the content sir!
I had a fender bender: I went right on red but didn’t see that the lady in front hadn’t left. SMACK! So, I barely had the clutch out in 1st gear, only traveled about 10 – 12 feet or so… Guess how much? $4500. Hood, front bumper cover, headlight glass, grill, right front fender replaced. I can’t imagine what kind of damage would occur if I were to have any accident with any degree of speed. Sidebar is I now have to be very careful not to get a speeding ticket. A one-two combo such as that would send my rates thru the roof!
The “Cash right now” offer had better be significant. A simple low-speed impact on the back bumper can be a $1500 repair, so five hundred bucks won’t cut it.
I live in the insurance fraud capitol of America: Brooklyn. Between the drivers on their cellphones, zonked out on heroin and toking up on pot – add in the corrupt badged mafia, there is still the organized insurance fraud run by all of the Eastern European contributions to the great putrid petri-dish that make $50,000 per no-fault incident for the corrupt doctor mills. My Eastern European ex – would sign up between 10- 20 “patients” a day for the doctors she worked for. Each “no-fault patient” was worth $50,000 to the doctors offering “spinal pain injections” if they remained with the doctor until the $50,000 medical policy no-fault caries was exhausted. On a given day, she would sign up $2Million in perspective “patients” by saying “yes, yes – you are good candidate for injections.” The “patients” are either using the “procedures” to bolster an insurance claim or are simply enjoying the “free” attention of a doctor.
I resorted to having both a dash camera and a rear view camera recording ALL of the time. You can buty them directly from the Chinese manufacturers on ebay for under $100, a 32GB memory card is now under $50, and the transformer required to step down the car’s 12v to the 5v that the camera/dvr usb needs is a few dollars more. I decided on using my first dash camera that had proved finicky with temperature changes, as a rear camera when I upgraded. I just added a second set of wires to the the transformer I plugged into the rain sensor and ran some low voltage cable I had leftover in the garage through the headliner and jams to the rear window.
The dash camera is a wonder. 1080p recording constantly. Last December it caught NYPD deliberately trying to cause an accident at high speed – of course IAB and the media ignored it, but thousands of others got to witness exactly what I saw on copblock and youtube. https://youtu.be/lsaSHqd3beY
If someone rear ends me, I win the lottery…
It is an offshoot of the surveillance state and the destruction of a high trust society to use these mechanisms to protect yourself.
Eric, your site continues to provide very valuable information and a platform for discussion.
The system I put in:
Mini 0805 Ambarella A7LA50 Chip 1296P Car Dash Camera DVR with Better Heat Sink
12V to 5V Inverter DC Converte 5 Voltage Mini USB Hard Wired Car Power Charger
Mini-USB-Female-to-Micro-USB-Male-F-M-Adapter-Data-Charger-Converter-Connector-/ Mini USB Female to Micro USB Male F/M Adapter Data Charger Converter Connector
Memory chips SanDisk-16GB-32GB-64GB-128GB-Micro-SD-SDHC-Micro-SDXC-
The cops here do not make reports for fender benders anymore. They only show up to determine if they can generate any revenue from people’s misfortune. And if there is a single drop of rain, it’s automatically “operation slick streets” and they will not even respond unless there is an injury involved.
State troopers showed up to give out tickets to the victims of a chain reaction accident on a foggy Long Island Expressway a few years ago. A woman I used to work with who is the nicest person I have ever known, a cancer survivor and devout Christian – had been one of the drivers at the end of the chain- while she was being placed in a neck brace and placed on an ambulance a surly “african-american” state trooper demanded her divers license – he rifled through her purse and took it – refusing to return it to her as the doors closed on the ambulance. He followed her to the hospital and returned her drivers license along with a ticket for “failure to exercise due care” – he was not a witness to the accident, but the Marx Brother Cuomo and NYC’s two most despicable mayors have instructed their gestapo to issue these tickets for the revenue. No need to witness anything as “due care” is a nebulous phenomena open to interpretation by the badged mafia needing to extract a bit of wealth from accident victims.
As of the early 90s, a “minor bumper ding” cost me 3K at the repair shop. Since I was rear ended in that Honda CRX three times, I kinda knew how much it was going to cost. Anything other than a tap broke the underlying supports. I can only imagine what a minor bumper ding would cost now. I doubt anyone is carrying around 5 grand in cash.