Thursday, March 26, 2015

Clear it if you can steer it

By Mike Allende

We receive a lot of questions about what someone should do if they are involved in a collision:
                  “Should I stay put and wait for help?”
                  “Should I move, and if so, where to?”
                  “Stay in the car or get out?”

While our Incident Response Team (IRT) and our friends at the Washington State Patrol respond as quickly as they can, even they can find themselves at the mercy of traffic conditions from time to time. So we went to Trooper Mark Francis of the State Patrol and IRT member John Perez to find out just what you should do if you’re in a collision.

If IRT arrives to help, listen and trust them to help get you to safety.
What’s the first thing a driver should do if they’re involved in a collision?
MF: The first step is making sure no one in any of the vehicles involved is injured. If they are, call 911 immediately. If everyone is OK and the vehicles are still operational, limp the cars off to the next exit, or at least over to the shoulder.

But don’t we have to wait for the police to investigate?
MF: Only if there are serious injuries. If it’s a minor collision, we can investigate it from another location such as a side road, a gas station parking lot or the shoulder. Once you’re safely off the road, then call 911, take photos if you want to, exchange your information and wait for the State Patrol to arrive.

If your car his mobile, find a shoulder, gore point or other safe spot
to drive to before exchanging information.
Don’t stop in the lane of traffic.
How can a driver help the State Patrol get their jobs done once off the highway?
MF: Staying in your vehicle always helps. Have your information ready like your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. And be prepared to either give or write a brief statement.

What if a car can’t be moved?
JP: It happens, and the best thing to do in that case is to listen to us and trust us. We know how to help, how to get you to safety and how to get traffic moving. Now and then a driver doesn’t want us to push them because they think we’ll damage the car. Our trucks have a layer of Teflon on the front so the most damage will be a black smudge that can be wiped off. Just put the car in neutral, stay off the brakes, listen to our instructions and we’ll get you and your vehicle to safety.

These cars quickly moved to the shoulder
after colliding on I-90. Moving to the grass on the
other side of the wall would be a great next step.
MF: Also be sure to activate your hazards so approaching vehicles know. Then safely exit your vehicle and find a safe spot to call 911, like the side of a hill or behind a retention wall or another large, sturdy object from where you can keep an eye on your vehicle from a distance. If there just isn’t a safe place to wait, stay in your vehicle. That will give you better protection than just standing near the roadway.

Anything else drivers should know that would help?
JP: We understand that collisions happen, stalls happen. We’re not there to judge you; we just want to help you, get you to safety and keep traffic going. So be honest about what’s going on and trust us to get things cleared quickly.

You don’t have to wait for the State Patrol to arrive
before moving to safety. If you can steer your car,
clear it off the highway as quickly as possible.
MF: People don’t get in collisions all the time so it’s easy to forget what to do in those situations. Plan ahead and be prepared. If everyone does their best to clear minor, fender-bender collisions off the freeways and highways, we can have a large impact on the amount of congestion they cause.