Usually my drive from New York to North Carolina is painless. It takes me about ten hours of driving to finally arrive in North Carolina. All of my trips to North Carolina and back to New York have always been free from problems, until about a month ago. I was once again on my way to North Carolina driving my own vehicle when I was struck by another driver in Virginia. As soon as the accident happened all I could think about was how my trip was going to be ruined. Now I was going to be late arriving, my passenger window was blown out, and it was raining. It just seemed like it couldn’t get any worse. But it did.
The first mistake I made was to move my vehicle from one side of the road to the other. When the accident happened I was traveling in the far left lane of a five lane interstate. The other driver was in the adjacent lane and came into my lane and hit me. We moved our vehicles because they were in a dangerous spot on the road where we could have been hit again. I should have taken pictures because when the police showed up they couldn’t tell what happened. Of course it turned into “he said, she said” and because I was out of state the police officer blamed me for the accident.
When the officer asked me what happened I was still shaking from the accident and mumbled between tears ” I don’t know”. The officer than spoke to the other driver and that’s when it got worse. Come to find out the other driver had been a Virginia drivers instructor for over eight years, and it was obvious that the officer knew her. After I had calmed down I asked the officer if I could make a statement and he told me no. He also said that he would not take a statement from my passenger. The officer said everything would be included in the accident report and that I could obtain a copy in ten days. Then he told me to wait in my car.
While I was waiting in my car the officer chatted with the driver of the other vehicle, laughing and smiling the entire time. After about 20 minutes he finally returned to my vehicle and tried to give me a ticket for reckless driving. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I was driving my classic car that only had 50,000 miles on it, my car that had never been in an accident, my baby. The other driver was the one driving recklessly in a SUV in the rain, traveling well over 70 miles per hour. The driver of the SUV tried to blame her loosing control of her vehicle on me saying that I hit her. Of course the officer believed her because he knew her, and I was an out of state driver.
Finally the officer said he would not issue any tickets and I figured that resolved the problem, but when I obtained a copy of the police report I found that he stated I was the cause of the accident, a complete lie. Now I have hired a lawyer and am actively trying to get the police report amended. I tried not to let the accident ruin my trip but it was hard. My window was blown out and I had to drive another hour in the rain before I could get a replacement window. The window cost me $200 out of my own pocket, but at least I had a window. Even now, a month later I am still trying to get the report amended.
There are several things that you can do to prevent yourself from getting into an accident while traveling. Knowing what to do at the scene of the accident will help you get the accident resolved faster and easier. Once you get home or to your destination there are also some things you should do like call your insurance company and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Preventing Accidents While Traveling
There are several things you can do to avoid accidents while traveling far distances on the road. If you are driving numerous hours split the driving time with another person so you don’t get too tired. Get Plenty of Sleep.Make sure that you are well rested and able to drive. Split the driving time with another person when you begin to feel tired. If you cannot split the driving time pull over and rest. Contrary to popular thought turning the music up loud and rolling down the window is not going to help you stay awake. If you cannot rest for a long period try a 10 minute power nap and a brisk walk. You will feel much better.
Secondly, do not talk on the phone. When your phone rings try to pull over and answer it. If you cannot pull over then don’t answer the phone. Most people drive erratically when talking on cell phones , ignoring signs, and failing to stop. Several states have adopted anti cell phone laws for drivers. Pay attention, stay alert, and check your mirrors. I always find that it is easier to travel with someone. The companionship offers me ease of mind and conversation, and often makes the trip feel shorter.
Prepare ahead of time for the worst. Even if every trip you take is always event less it is better to be prepared. Sometimes I drive to upstate New York where there are a lot of back roads and far distances between towns. For this instance I bring my car safety kit that has flares, jumper cables, a flashlight, a small first aid kit, and spare gloves. I also bring a gallon of water and a fleece blanket. Even when I travel to warmer places I still bring all the parts of my vehicle safety kit, even the blankets. Don’t forget in warm climates it is still cold at night. I also put a pad of paper and a pen in a waterproof bag with matches and a disposable camera. All this stuff might seem excessive but you will be surprised when you can’t find a paper or pen.
At the Scene
The first thing you should do at the scene is pull over and stop. If your vehicle was totaled or disabled get out of the vehicle. Make sure the driver and passenger of the other vehicle(s) are okay. If you estimate the damage to be more than $1000 call the police. In most states you do not have to call the police unless the damage is more than $1000 or someone has been killed or injured. I like to call the police anyway because sometimes people will lie and say things happened a different way. Most times for me it seems that people are honest and things work out easily.
While you are waiting for the police to come exchange information with the other driver or drivers involved. Get the name, address, date of birth, vehicle information-make, model, year,insurance information, and name and age of any passengers involved. Take pictures of your vehicle and move it immediately if it is blocking traffic. In some states you can actually be ticketed if your vehicle is blocking or stopping traffic. Of course if your car was totaled or disabled there is nothing that you can do but wait for the police and call a tow truck. You might as well call a tow truck yourself because the police won’t call one until they arrive at the scene, adding to the time you will be left waiting.
When the police arrive inform them of any injuries that may have been suffered. Tell them calmly what happened. If there are conflicting statements do not argue with the other driver or the police. This will only make things worse. Even if no one believes you don’t get too excited.
After the Accident
Whether you canceled the rest of your trip or you kept on like I did, you need to report the accident to your insurance company. It is best to notify them within 24 hours of the accident. Usually they will ask you for a recorded statement of what happened so it is best if it is still fresh in your memory. Also you should report the accident to the other drivers insurance company. My agent will take care of this but I choose to do so myself so that I know for one, it is done and two, they have my exact statement.
In most states if the damage to your vehicle or other private property was estimated at more than $1000 you must file an accident report form with the Department of Motor Vehicles. In most states it is required that this be filled out and sent to the DMV no later than 10 days after the date of the accident. In a few states this is a voluntary form and it is not required to filled out. Check with the local Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what is appropriate in your situation.
If you had an accident in state other than your own it is best to seek legal representation. Dealing with interstate laws can be difficult but a lawyer can guide you through the process for a nominal fee. Also, if you have legal representation you are prepared if summoned to court. Find a lawyer whose business resides in the city or town of your accident. Most times lawyers only have license to practice in one state.
After you have reported the accident to the police, the insurance company, and sought legal representation you must do one thing. Nurture your claim. If you let your claim die you may not get reimbursed for repairs and damages. Stay on top of the paperwork and call your agent often. Since it usually takes a couple of weeks to obtain a police report make sure that you mention it often to your insurance agent. You can also obtain motor vehicle accidents reports from the police station, public records, and the department of motor vehicles for a nominal fee.