people helping a woman after a car accident

What To Do If You Witness A Car Accident

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.

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 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.

We're here to help, 24/7.

Call 911

Smartphone screen with the emergency number 911 dialed – Person calling the support service phone line asking for helpNever 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 witnessed a car accident, the location, number of people involved, and any other pertinent details.

Check On The Victims

man helping a woman after a car accident

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. While this can be an emotionally taxing time, try to stick to the facts and remember that this is not the time to assess who is at fault for the accident or make judgments on what the other driver must have been thinking. A good rule of thumb is to never admit fault at the scene. Unless there’s a risk of the vehicle catching fire, do not under any circumstances 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.

Stabilize The Vehicles (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.

Give A Statement & Provide Your Contact Information

people looking at a car after an accidentWhen 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.

Car accidents can be upsetting for the victim and the bystander alike. The best way to deal with an accident is to stay on the scene and report what you’ve seenOnly exit your vehicle to render aid if it is safe to do soYour clearheaded actions to safely assist or protect the victims until emergency assistance arrives can make an enormous difference in the overall outcome.

Being in an accident might be stressful, but GEICO Mobile makes the claims process easy. Download it today in the App Store or Google Play.

By Stephanie Levis

Need to report an accident? Click here.

Get GEICO Auto insurance.

    Leave a comment

  1. Wendy Tucker says,

    Good presentation. I probably would not have thought about the distance factor before checking on possible injuries.

  2. Al Cinamon says,

    They are NOT accidents. They are
    Avoidable
    Crashes
    Caused by
    Ignorance,
    Drunkenness,
    Errors,
    Negligence and
    Thoughtlessness!

    Let’s stop making excuses for irresponsible drivers who are nothing more than movers!

    • NR says,

      Hear. Hear.

      VERY few of these incidents are REAL unforseeable Accidents.

      You forgot:
      “texting while driving”
      “driving while high on drugs”
      “reading eBooks while driving”
      “taking selfies while driving”
      “Radio Volume up too high [can’t hear sirens etc etc]”
      “Wearing headphones while driving” [No, not making this up].
      etc.

      I’m sure there are many more…..

    • John says,

      Have you ever had deer jumping out of the nothing from behind bushes, smashing your windshield and making you crash with incoming traffic? Is that an “error” from the deer? Have you ever had a sudden health issue that would momentarily make you lose concience? Is that “negligence” for not going regularly to the doctor? Have you ever had a huge tree branch suddenly falling in front of your car? Have you ever had a tire exploding while you were driving in the middle lane of a busy city beltway whith everybody around you driving at 65 mph during rush hour? I wonder what excuse will you make up if you are ever involved in an ACCIDENT…

      • Pat says,

        I think that the previous commenter was just venting frustration over inconsiderate drivers, of whom there are many……..However, you gave very good exceptions! Other factors off the top of my head are inclement weather and vision being temporarily impeded by sun glare. This happened to me the other day and for a few hundred feet, I couldn’t see more than 5 ft in front of me despite having on sunglasses and my visor down……All I could do was go very slow and then drive across a parking lot just to get past that section of road where the sun was blinding me.

      • Diane says,

        Well said John- I was thinking along the same lines- that’s why accidents are called accidents in the first place…

    • Jerry Bond says,

      Don’t forget landslides, snow slides, rock slides, not to mention ice, snow, water, high wind, sand storms. And how about, I just didn’t see ‘
      em coming?

  3. Herbert L. Harger says,

    I have been trained in First Aid and have twice been in situations where I was able to save a persons life. You can’t wait until something happens and then wish you had been prepared.

  4. Elias says,

    That is a very good information. Every driver have to know, What does when is in witness of a accident. In Florida that happen frenquenty

  5. Kimberley Weeks says,

    This would be nice to have in a card format to leave in the car to refer to in case of accident. I like Robert Woods comments below about having your own information ready in case of accident. Is there a form available?

    • Pat says,

      I think that the percentage of times that would happen is small, but you make a good point and I’m sorry that happened to you both. I would like to have a pistol concealed on me in such an instance, but even then, there is the risk of then being held liable for a death or injury caused by defending oneself all while just trying to be a good samaritan. That’s a dilemma.

  6. Robert Woods says,

    One of the best things Geico could do is to encourage their members to complete
    a one page summary of: Name, address, phone#, auto description, Insurance company, their phone# , Account# before any accident and keep it in their glove
    box with a reminder for time of accident, location, weather, name of other party, insurance company, member#,year, model, & vin#, number of people in each car, and any witnesses.

    This would expedite the sharing of information after an accident, clarify what information is required, and improve the accuracy of the information.

    It would also be a great tool for their Insurance to provide thei customers in very anxious time.

  7. kensteele says,

    i saw a rear-end accident and it was clear who was at fault. i parked my car and approached the victim and gave him my contact information and i left. later the police called me and asked me what i saw.

  8. Howard Campbell says,

    I saw an accident a few weeks ago and ended up driving away. It has driven me crazy over the last few weeks thinking that I could have stopped and potentially helped someone. I have found a few other good articles suggesting what to do if you see an accident:

    http://jalopnik.com/ten-things-to-do-when-you-see-a-car-crash-506699111

    http://www.1800leefree.com/blog/what-to-do-witness-car-accident/

    http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/witness-car-crash-article-1.997281

    • Pat says,

      Well, you made up for not stopping by providing those articles for others to learn more about what to do and hopefully they will assist so thank you…

  9. Corlis says,

    These comments were enlightening with respects to staying on the scene of an accident you observed. A policeman ‘claimed’ to have seen everything in an accident I was involved in, and for him it was open and shut! I asked him if he saw the semi in traffic give the clear sign to move into traffic and that the vehicle that hit me cross double yellow lines to move more quickly into a turning lane? He said no. The semi driver was crossing the street after having parked his truck to give the officer his view of what he saw. Because he stayed on the scene I was vindicated!!!

  10. Jenny Gygi says,

    Getting in a car accident isn’t something that anybody wants to happen. Sadly, however, sometimes it happens. I really appreciate your tips on what to do after it happens, especially when it comes to giving a statement. An accurate, clear statement can really change how things turn out down the road. If I ever witness an accident, I’ll follow your advice and stick around to give a statement of what I saw to the police. Great tips, thanks for your help!

  11. Suzie says,

    If you where in an accident and it was the other persons fault. There insurance is paying for repairs do you have to notify your insurance company?

    • Ryan says,

      You have the option of reporting to your insurance, paying your deductable, and having your insurance fix it and bill the responsible party. Once the responsible person’s insurance pays, your insurance should repay you the deductable. I have done this several times. This way I don’t have to wait for repairs to my car.