Most of us know more or less what to do when we've been involved in a collision: call the police, exchange insurance information, file an accident report, and so on. However, what is less clear to us is what exactly our roles are when we are not directly involved in a collision, but are witnesses to one. If an accident unfolds before your eyes, here's what you should do:
- safely pull off the road, and park about 30 metres away from the collision. Turn on your emergency lights.
- approach the site of the collision and check to see if anyone is injured without touching anyone involved. Try to understand the events so that you are prepared to report your observations accurately.
- phone 911 and tell them your reason for calling. You will be directed appropriately. Be prepared to supply your contact information, as you will likely be contact for details as to what you saw and heard.
- Give us much detail as you can about the accident location. This may not seem critical to do in a timely fashion if nobody has been hurt, but if there are injuries, it is imperative that paramedics arrive as quickly as possible. Try to stay as calm as possible so that you can think clearly, and direct response teams to the accident location quickly and effectively.
- Wait for the 911 operator to confirm that they have all of the information required of you before hanging up. Don't rush to get off the phone before all of their questions have been answered. This could cause unnecessary delays in their ability to respond.
- Do not agree to direct traffic around the accident. For one, this puts you in harm's way physically. For another, you could be held responsible for any subsequent accidents that could be blamed on your directing.
- Unless you are a physician, nurse, or paramedic by training, do not move any of the injured parties. It is very easy in circumstances like these to actually cause more harm and exacerbate injuries simply by trying to make the casualties more comfortable. Wait for the paramedics to arrive; they'll be able to do their best without interference.
- Be prepared for future contact in case further details are needed later on.