Car accidents can happen any time, anywhere, and even to defensive drivers with safe driving habits. When faced with an accident, you may be blindsided — or you may see it coming and have an opportunity to act. At that point, you’re shifting from crash avoidance to crash survival. What you do in those few seconds can make a difference in the severity of the accident and may even save your life. Read on to learn what you can do before, during, and after a car accident that can help you and your passengers survive a crash.
What to do Before a Car Accident
The best way to survive an accident is to avoid accidents completely. But even safe drivers can get into accidents. Take these steps before there’s ever danger on your radar so that you’ll be safer in the event of a crash.
Wear your seat belt: In an accident, a seat belt can mean life or death, so this is absolutely the best thing you can do to survive a car crash. Seat belts reduce serious car crash injuries and deaths by about half, and those are good odds. You may not have control over much of what happens during a car accident, but this step is one you can take long before you’re in danger. Secure your seat belt low on your hip bones and make sure your shoulder belt goes across the center of your chest. Secure children safely in car seats.
Drive the safest car you can afford: Manufacturers continue to make cars safer every year, introducing new features like automatic braking and lane departure warnings. They also make improvements and perform better on crash test ratings. When you’re shopping for a car, pay attention to safety. Check official crash test ratings, investigate safety features, and consider these factors when purchasing your vehicle. And whatever car you’re driving, make sure you know the standard and optional safety features including where your airbags are and whether or not you have ABS.
Store potential projectiles: Anything can become a projectile during a crash. Rocks collected on a hike, sports equipment, your laptop, an overnight bag. Seemingly harmless items can become dangerous when flung across your car at a high rate of speed, hitting you or your passengers. Even a can of soup in your grocery bag has the potential to turn fatal when it’s flying at 60 miles per hour in a car crash. Do your best to travel light, removing all unnecessary objects from your car every time you get home. When traveling with objects that could become projectiles, carefully stow them in your trunk, covered back storage area, or in wells behind seats. Consider using a cargo cover or net to secure items in the back of SUVs and minivans. Note that unsecured passengers and pets are potential projectiles as well.
Invest in an auto survival tool and first aid kit: Keep a seatbelt cutter and glass breaker handy in your vehicle at all times. Be ready to cut your seat belt or break your window to escape if necessary. You should also have a first aid kit available for emergencies.