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How to Survive a Car Accident

wrecked car

Below are strategies to help avoid a car accident and what to do if   a car accident is unavoidable.  The article also provides other miscellaneous safety tips including issues to consider when purchasing an automobile.

A car accident is one of the most dangerous things the average person will come in contact with during his or her life. This guide is posted in the hope that it will help its readers avoid injury or death. It should be noted that every vehicle is different, and much of the information here (such as airbags) will not apply to those who drive vehicles from 1990 or earlier. The methods of avoiding an accident, and the position one should be in during a crash, however, are effectively universal.

8 Ways to Minimize an Unavoidable Car Accident

  1. Stay calm. If an accident appears imminent, you need to respond quickly but smoothly. Vehicles of all types respond better to smooth steering and braking inputs.
  2. Choose your course of action. You need to decide what combination of steering, braking, and accelerating will best serve to or minimize the harm from an accident.
  3. Steer smoothly. – Very jerky motions of the steering wheel, especially with heavy vehicles or those with light rear ends (e.g., pickup trucks) are likely to lead to skids.
  4. Call emergency services after a crash. Apply first aid if needed. Do not attempt to remove injured people from a vehicle. Explosions are very unlikely, and you could aggravate any neck spinal injuries, even if the victim feels uninjured.
  5. Do not bend over or cover your head. In the event of a rollover, any force significant enough to warp in the roof and bend or break the A-beams might hit your head, and possibly knock you unconscious. It is unlikely to do nearly as much damage as that caused to your neck from having your head in front of the airbags when they deploy.
  6. Brake with control. Braking practices vary depending upon whether your vehicle has antilock brakes: 
  • No antilock brakes – If your car lack antilock brakes, you need to pump the brakes to keep the car under control. If you slam on the brakes, your car will start to skid and you will lose control. You cannot steer a vehicle when the brakes are locked. Press firmly, then release. If you feel the tires start to skid release the brakes before steering.
  • Antilock brakes – Do not pump antilock brakes. Your car’s ABS computer will pulse them much faster than you can (you will feel the pedal vibrate a bit when this occurs). Just hold the brakes firmly and steer normally.

7. Take steps to recover if you start to skid or lose control. If your car starts to skid or if a tire blows, follow these steps to control the car:[2]

  • Don’t hit the brakes. This will only make things worse.
  • Keep a firm grip on the wheel.
  • Steer in the direction of the skid. If the back of your car is sliding to the driver’s left, turn the wheels to the left.
  • Wait for your tires to regain traction before braking or pressing the accelerator.

8. Try to minimize damages:

  • Avoid head-on collisions into other vehicles or front-end collisions into immovable objects like large trees or concrete barriers.
  • Do as much as you can to control your car’s speed. The faster the impact, the more damage it will cause.
  • Avoid side impacts. Serious injury is likely to result if another car strikes your car on the side where it is much weaker structurally.

What to do After an Accident 

  1. Collect information after an accident. Be sure to exchange information with others involved in the accident and get information from eyewitnesses. 
  2. Contact a personal injury lawyer. Another tip I’d like to add is that if you’re involved in a car accident, it’s usually best to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible so that they or one of their investigators can investigate and photograph the accident scene while there still may be evidence present at the scene.  An effective West Virginia car accident attorney will also want to interview eyewitnesses as soon as possible because memories fade and people move.  

10 Bonus Tips on how to Avoid a Car Accident

  1. Wear your seat belt. Wearing your seatbelt is one of the most important things you can do to survive a car crash. Make sure that your lap belt sits low on your hip bones and that the shoulder belt goes across the center of your chest. Children should be seated in proper child restraints until they are large enough to properly wear a lap and shoulder belt.
  2. Choose the right vehicle. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, be sure to note the standard and optional safety features, such as where and how many airbags come with the car. Research crash test results, and consider built-in monitoring services such as General Motors’ OnStar system. These can notify emergency personnel of an accident.
  3. Drive a safe car.  that is fitted with seat belts and other safety features. Do not sit in a seat that has no head support. Older cars, which may just have lap belts and rarely have any additional safety features, are generally less safe than large vehicles. SUVs tend to be more prone to rollover accidents than cars. Try to drive the safest car that suits your needs and budget. The Insurance Institute for highway safety maintains extensive crash test ratings and lists of safe vehicles of different sizes and styles.[1]
  4. Store objects such that they will not hit you if the car gets hit. If an object could become a projectile during a crash, either remove it from the car, or stow it in the trunk, or, in the case of a minivan, in the well behind the seat.
  5. Make sure the safety systems on your car are serviced regularly. Airbags and seat-belts significantly reduce injury and death in automobile accidents.
  6. Make sure your car’s engine, brakes, transmissions, suspension, and tires are in good condition. The safest accident is the one you don’t get in; having your car in top running condition can help you avoid an accident or minimize harm in case you get in an accident.
  7. Obey traffic laws and be conscious of current conditions. Adjust your driving if in heavy traffic or inclement weather. Sixty mph may be safe when it’s dry, but if a sudden rain falls, wetting the roadway and raising oil off the ground, it will probably be safer to drive at a slower speed.
  8. Focus on what you are doing. While driving, avoid using cell phones, reading maps, eating, and other distracting activities. If you are a passenger, sit up straight with your seat-belt fastened. Don’t lean your seat too far back, don’t put your feet up on the dashboard, and do not distract the driver. Do not place objects on top of the airbag enclosure.
  9. Accelerate if needed. Although it seems counter intuitive, sometimes the best way to avoid an accident is to speed up and get out of the way.
  10. Anticipate potential problems. Observe the road looking for things that could end up causing an accident.[2]
  • Look ahead for cars or pedestrians that may move into your car’s path.
  • Keeping a safe distance behind other vehicles (following the “two-second rule” ) can help you have enough time to react when a vehicle in front of you makes an unexpected move.
  • Stay away from distracted drivers (e.g., the guy on his way to work using an electric razor), tailgaters, and other drivers engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Keep an eye on parked cars. They may pull out in front of you; people may exit from them or move from between them without much warning.


If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident we invite you to call us for a Free Case Review. Our toll-free number is 1-877-943-9378 (WEST), and there’s No Fee unless and until we recover compensation for you. 

West Law Firm is located in Charleston, WV, but we serve clients who have been injured anywhere in West Virginia, including clients who live across the country.

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