Fender benders can be scary things—especially if you’ve never experienced one before and are unsure what to do. We’ve put together this list of things to keep in your car and tips to keep in the back of your mind to help cope when the unexpected happens.
- The right attitude:
In the event of any accident, your first priority needs to be the people involved—make sure everyone is alright. Call 911 if necessary. Then, calmly assess your next steps and gather information from everyone involved.
- Proof of insurance:
Most states require drivers to carry minimum car insurance policies in case of an accident and some require proof of insurance in the event of accidents or traffic stops. For this reason, you’ll want to keep proof of your insurance in your car at all times. Insurance cards also have useful information, such as the number to call to file a claim and your policy number and vehicle information—things you’ll need to know and share with the other driver(s) involved in an accident to file or respond to a claim.
- Contact cards:
Keep a few business cards or notecards with your contact information on them handy in the event of an accident to quickly share with others involved—they, or their insurance company, will likely need to contact you.
- Notepad and a pen:
Accidents can be a blur. Keep a notepad and a pen handy to jot down contact information of other drivers involved, the location of the accident, how fast you were going, descriptions of what occurred and details of the damage inflicted to your car, other cars, objects or buildings.
While not necessary, cameras can come in handy in the event of a he said/she said accident scenario. You may want to snap a few photos of the damage at the scene if you can.
- Phone numbers:
Keep a short list of important numbers handy in your glove box in case of an accident. You may need to call your insurance company, roadside assistance, a tow truck, your preferred auto body shop or a cab or rental car service from the accident site.
If your fender bender happens at night, you’ll need to be able to shine some light on things. You can assess damage to a vehicle, injuries to passengers or flag down motorists to help. A good flashlight with working batteries or a hand crank model is a must-have item for any vehicle.
- First Aid Kit:
Another item to keep in your vehicle, as it can come in handy if a fender bender results in minor cuts and scrapes. Remember, always call 911 in the event of an accident that results in injuries of any kind!
- Survival Kit:
Not all accidents involve other drivers—sometimes they involve road conditions, signs and posts or animals. In the blink of an eye, you could find yourself alone on the side of the road waiting for help. Hopefully, help is not far away. However, prepare yourself and your family for long waits in the car when traveling on remote or rural roads. Bottles of water, blankets, comfortable walking shoes (or boots for winter climates), snacks and games for the kids can help ease the wait. Brightly colored flags to attach to your car to signal for help, along with flares are also great things to have along just in case.
- Empty Duffel Bag:
From files for work to soccer practice gear, music to DVDs and everything in between, we keep a lot of things in our vehicles. If your vehicle is towed at the site of an accident or you must leave your vehicle behind, you’ll want to take important or valuable belongings with you. Keep a duffle bag handy in your trunk just in case you’ll need to do so.
Last but not least—in order to best prepare for an accident, you should be familiar with your auto insurance policy and what it does and does not cover.