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Created on 04.10.2019

Car accidents: how to prevent them and how to act appropriately

If you drive carefully, you can do a lot to prevent accidents. But what can you do if you are involved in a car accident anyway? Roland Allenbach, expert at the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention, offers advice.

According to ASTRA, around 55,000 accidents take place on Swiss roads every year. “About half of all serious and fatal injuries sustained by vehicle occupants are due to skidding accidents or single vehicle accidents,” says Roland Allenbach, Head of Road Traffic Research at the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu). The main causes, says Allenbach, are non-adapted or excessive speed and alcohol consumption. “The other half are caused by collisions.” The most frequent reasons here are failure to give way, inattentiveness and distraction. There are many sources of distraction: from telephoning with or without a hands-free system, to reading and writing SMS and e-mails, to operating the radio, the navigation system or other devices. Eating, drinking, smoking, applying make-up or even putting on or taking off clothes can also act as a distraction. And finally, the state of mind must not be underestimated.

Prevention: what to watch out for when driving a car

“Never drive when overtired, drunk or under the influence of drugs”, is the expert’s advice to avoid accidents. And be careful when taking medication: “Ask for more information from your doctor or pharmacist if you need to take medication, as it can impair your ability to drive.” In addition, he suggests the following rules of conduct:

  • Don’t let yourself be distracted
  • Drive with concentration, foresight and at an appropriate speed
  • Wear your seat belt and adjust the headrest correctly
  • Where possible, use driver assistance systems such as the emergency brake assistant

How to act appropriately in the event of an accident

If an accident occurs, the following course of action is advised, according to Allenbach.

Step 1

Stop immediately, and switch on the hazard lights and dipped beam. Put on a hi-vis vest and move away from the danger area. Get an overview of the persons affected (injured persons) and vehicles (danger of explosion).

Step 2

Set up the warning triangle at least 50 metres in front of the scene of the accident – where speeds are higher, even 100 metres in front.

Step 3

Get any casualties out of the hazardous area.

Step 4

Dial emergency number 112. Depending on the situation, the police, ambulance and/or fire brigade will be called out. On the motorway, it is best to use the orange emergency telephones and wait for help behind the crash barrier.

Step 5

Perform first aid where necessary and attend to injured persons until the rescue services arrive on site.

These items belong in every car.

In addition to your driver’s license and your mobile phone, you should always have the following things with you:

  • a first aid kit
  • a warning triangle
  • a hi-vis vest
  • a European Accident Report
  • the vehicle registration document and
  • blankets

Report any vehicle damage immediately to your car insurance provider

If your vehicle is damaged in an accident, photograph it from all sides and complete the European Accident Report. The green form is usually sent to you by your insurance company together with all the necessary information and free telephone numbers for claims and emergency reports in credit-card size format. Use clear language, record witness names and addresses, and don’t forget the signature on the back. Do not accept any claims from third parties and do not sign documents in a foreign language. If in doubt – or if people are injured – call the police. Then report the damage immediately to your insurance company. Have repairs carried out only after your car has been inspected and always ask for a written cost estimate in advance.

It is only in the event of an accident that you become aware of the importance of car insurance, which you can rely on in the event of an emergency.

About our expert

Roland Allenbach is Head of Road Traffic Research at the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu).

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