You’re sitting at a red light in your Mini Cooper Clubman, your sweet first ride, and suddenly you simultaneously feel a hard bump and hear a loud “Crack!”. Someone HIT you? You’ve never been in an accident before! What do you do?
While most people are aware of the aftermath of an accident, including things like knowing how long a fender bender stays on your record, most don’t have a good handle on what to do first when an accident happens.
Let us help you. Read on to find out what to do when this unfortunate rite of passage happens to you. There are several reasons to love being a woman, but did you ever include the subject of driving in that long list?
1. Women Are Better Drivers
We’ve all heard the jokes perpetuated by TV, movies, stand-up comedians, and not-funny male family members for decades that women are bad drivers.
However, research backs us up. Male drivers are involved in twice as many accidents as female drivers. Women drivers make up less than 30 percent of all traffic violations. And there’s a 3 to 1 ratio of men getting DUIs vs. women.
2. Women Get Better Car Insurance Rates
So based on statistics, women are less of a risk to car insurance companies. Insurers say thank you by charging lower rates. That difference in rates between men and women varies thanks to another big factor — age.
When you’re young, (under 25), the difference can be over $1,000 annually. But both males and females are paying the highest price for car insurance then. Why? There’s a higher risk because of being inexperienced drivers.
When you hit that over-25 car insurance milestone, the difference goes down to close to $200 a month. And at 35? Just a few dollars difference, as insurance companies feel this age group are the most stable drivers.
But after 60, the difference starts expanding again to about $150 a month. Physical impairments and the effects of medications make car insurance companies consider senior citizen drivers a higher risk. But you don’t have to worry about that for a long time.
3. Your First Accident: the Essential Checklist
Since you’re already at an advantage as a young female driver, keep that streak going when something goes wrong. Commit the car accident to-do list to memory.
Even better, have a back-up plan. You never know how you’ll react in a crisis, so be smart and have the checklist on your phone, because you’ll be using your smartphone a lot right after your first accident.
You may also want to keep a checklist in your glove compartment, especially in case you’re the type of person who does better with pen and paper when you’re frazzled or in case your phone has a low battery.
4. What to do when You Have a Car Accident
Let’s keep things simple and as few steps as possible.
- Stop the Car in a Safe Area
You don’t want another accident to happen in busy traffic while trying to deal with your accident. Turn on your hazard lights and pull off the road to a safe place.
- Call the Police
911 will get an officer to you quickly, and they can quickly get medical attention for all parties. They are also the neutral third party you need to assess the situation and make a report that can help you with your insurance company.
Thankfully with cell phones, this is easy to follow nowadays. Take pictures of all vehicles involved, the location, and any witnesses. These pictures will supplement the police report.
Get your insurance card, driver’s license, and vehicle registration. Ask for the same from the other party.
Make sure you get their name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, driver’s license number and expiration date, insurance company policy and contact numbers, license plate number, and the make, model, and year of their car.
- Call Your Insurance Provider
The sooner you do this, the better. They can start setting the wheels in motion to set up the insurance claim and start the investigation into your accident and damages.
5. What Not to do when You Have a Car Accident
Yes, many of these are the common-sense flip side of the list of what to do, but they bear repeating. You may want to keep this list handy, too.
- Don’t Leave the Scene
You could be charged with a crime if you flee.
- Don’t Forget to Call 911
If no one is hurt, there still needs to be an official report, which will give accurate details about the accident and everyone’s contact info to help the insurance process go smoothly.
But if you’re a clowning personality, your nerves make you prattle, or you have to fill silence with talking, just remember to zip it when the police come on scene. If you need some direction in this regard, here are some things you should never say to a police officer.
- Don’t Forget to Document the Accident
Help your insurance company and yourself by getting lots of pictures, not only of the vehicles involved but any contact info of the other parties, like their driver’s license. Record the basics of what, when, and where the accident happened.
- Don’t Blab to the Other Driver
Don’t admit fault. The other party’s insurance company can turn this against you, trying to avoid paying for damages, or perhaps even suing you.
- Don’t Deny Medical Treatment
If you say no to getting checked, you could be preventing yourself from getting personal injury compensation from the at-fault driver. Even if you feel it’s something minor at the time of the accident, it could develop into something major if left untreated.
6. Car Insurance Rates after Your First Accident
Try to not panic when it comes to your car insurance post-accident. There are a lot of variables insurance companies consider, especially when it’s your first one.
You may be worrying for nothing. If you had a clean driving record before this first fender bender, your insurance rate will most likely not go up, especially if you were not at fault or if your policy has accident forgiveness, which essentially gives drivers with any type of accident or ticket a free pass if they are part of a minor accident in the future.
If your rate is going to increase, it could do so by up to 10 percent. Some insurers see even first-time minor-accident drivers as risky. In their minds, if it happened once, it’s more likely to happen again.
But at least your rate increase won’t happen until you renew. And if your driving record stays clean, you will return to a normal rate after three years when that accident comes off of your record.
In the meantime, don’t let your first car accident trigger a quarter-life crisis. With this information and these tips, you won’t be in the hot seat when you’re in the driver’s seat after your first accident.