Despite every best effort at driving defensively and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, there’s a good chance that you’ll be involved in a minor collision, AKA a fender bender, at some point in your life as a driver. As unpleasant and inconvenient as these experiences can be (especially if you’re already running late), there are a few things you can do to ensure you and your vehicle are taken care of in the aftermath. Likewise, it’s important to know what not to do, as your first instinct in the event of a collision may not be the correct one. Here are a few things to remember if the time comes.
WHAT TO DO
Stop, and move your vehicle somewhere safe
Whether you’ve collided with another vehicle or been rear-ended, if your vehicle is still operable your first move should be to turn on your four-way hazard lights and get yourself out of the way of traffic. There are a few reasons for this, but the foremost of them is your own safety. Moving your car to the shoulder or a nearby side street will help to avoid backing up traffic behind you, but more importantly, it will keep you safely out of the path of other vehicles.
Next, you’ll need to do your diligence at the scene. Use your phone’s camera to take a few pictures of the damage to your vehicle and the other vehicle, as well as the other driver’s licence plate, insurance card and ID. If the damage is minor and no one is injured, there’s no reason to call the police, and you are free to leave the scene after exchanging information with the other driver.
Take a breath
Any motor vehicle accident, even a minor one, is a major shock to the system, so take as much time as you need to calm down before getting back on the road. This is also a good time to make note of any other info you may later need about the scene of the accident, including the exact location where the accident occurred, the date and time of the accident, and the weather conditions.
Call your insurer
When you get home, it’s time to call your insurer and give them the details. They will take your info and walk you through the next steps of assessing your claim.
Submit a report
Rules vary according to where you live, but most provinces require you to submit a police report following a collision. Some only require it if the damage is over a certain amount of money, and have different windows of time to make the report, so it’s a good idea to know what your province requires beforehand. For example, in Ontario, if the damage is less than $2,000, you have 24 hours to make your report to a vehicle collision centre, while BC has a minimum of $10,000.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Leave the scene
Regardless of who you think is at fault or how minor the damage is, you must stop your vehicle in the event of a collision, and failing to do so may be considered a hit-and-run under the law.
Argue with the other driver
Emotions can run high in the aftermath of collisions, but this isn’t the time to argue. Your best course of action is to take a few deep breaths and exchange details as calmly and efficiently as possible, then get safely back on the road.
Make any promises or accept fault
Similarly, there’s no need to lay blame at the scene or try to figure out who’s at fault. As upset as you may be, the only thing to do right now is get the info you need from the other driver, provide yours in exchange, and get back to your vehicle.
Fall victim to fraud
Unfortunately, minor vehicle collisions are one of the many ways scammers have found to take advantage of unsuspecting marks, so be wary of anyone trying to collect more than your basic license and insurance information, trying to make you accept fault on the scene, or asking for a cash payout.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.