Here are suggested actions to take if you witness a major automobile accident.
First, call 911 and report the accident. If you don’t have a cell phone, ask others on the scene to call, or try to find a phone in a nearby house or business. If you cannot locate a telephone at or near the accident, drive to the nearest phone and then return to the scene.
Try to determine if there are any injured people without putting yourself in danger (e.g., do not approach a vehicle, especially if it is on fire, in case of an explosion). Do not move an injured person and risk injuring him or her further. If possible, make the injured person more comfortable (e.g., cover him or her with a blanket or sit with him/her).
Warn oncoming vehicles about the accident (wave your arms or use something as a flag) and stop traffic or direct it past the accident scene (or ask someone else to do this). At night, use car headlights to illuminate the area and a flashlight to direct traffic.
When the police arrive, give the officer(s) your name and contact information and let the officer(s) know that you witnessed the accident. The police might ask you to describe what you saw immediately and/or they might talk to you at a later time. You might even be called as a witness in court if legal action ensues.
As soon as you can, write down every detail about the accident that you can recall while it is still fresh in your mind. Your notes should include as many of the following facts as possible: the date and time of the accident; the location of the accident; road conditions (e.g., dry, wet, icy or snowy; smooth, bumpy, gravely, or potholed); traffic conditions; weather conditions; visibility (rain, snow, fog, darkness, presence or absence of street lights); approximate speed the vehicles were traveling at the time of the accident (if applicable);
whether any of the cars involved skidded; areas of impact on the vehicles; whether anyone appeared to be injured and in what capacity; what, if anything, the parties involved in the accident said; and any other conditions that may have contributed to the accident. Write down the license plate numbers of the vehicles involved in the accident (in case one of the drivers leaves the scene).
Draw a picture of the accident scene, as well, with diagrams of how and where the collision occurred. Also include the locations of any cross-streets, stop signs or traffic signals, and anything else you thinks may be helpful in reconstructing the accident.
Stay out the way of the emergency crews (firefighters, paramedics, tow truck drivers, police), and leave the scene as soon as possible. You’ve done all you can.
Hopefully you will never witness an accident, but it is not a bad idea to have a flashlight, a notepad and pen, a blanket, and a cell phone in your car at all times – just in case. These items are, of course, useful for other situations, too.Hopefully