September 20, 2020

BY ROB MENDOSA

Winter is just around the corner and with it comes the blizzards and slippery roads that increase the number of car accidents. No one ever wants to be involved in an accident but for those who are, the decisions and actions you take immediately following that fateful meeting of metal could be important to your safety and your wallet.
Collisions happen every day around the city, sometimes just blocks from your home, causing a lot of stress and confusion. Knowing what to do can lessen the effects and alleviate a lot of that stress.
The word “accident” isn’t really an accurate term for a collision, since 90 per cent of all incidents are preventable and are either caused by driver error, speed or drivers failing to adjust for poor weather conditions, said Olaf Heinzel, spokesperson for Waterloo Regional Police.
But once that collision does happen, there are some important steps that should be taken, especially if you or someone in your vehicle is injured.
“The first thing people should be concerned with is their safety. If they are injured or a passenger in their vehicle is injured, call 911 immediately, so that help can be dispatched as soon as possible,” said Heinzel.
Drivers should notify police if damage to their vehicle is over $1,000. If drivers aren’t sure whether they need police assistance, call the dispatch centre and explain your situation and they can advise you on what you should do.
If it’s safe to do so, move your vehicle over to the side of the road, turn on your hazard lights and, regardless of the circumstances, never admit fault for the collision or assign blame to the other driver. Never sign anything regarding fault, or make any promises to pay for damages said Heinzel.
Once you are safe, and the vehicles are not causing any traffic problems, record all the details of the collision, including the time, date and location, speed of your vehicle and weather and road conditions. Draw a little sketch of the collision showing position of the vehicles, traffic lights, etc.
If your cellphone has a camera take pictures of the scene.
Insure that you have exchanged information with the other parties and if there are witnesses get their names and phone numbers. Don’t ever drive away without that information.
Silvana Aceto, spokesperson for CAA South Central Ontario, said that an accident must be reported to a collision centre within 24 hours if damage is greater than $1,000, the police were not present at the scene, or if damage is minor and you can drive your car to the collision centre.
According to Tim Bzowey, vice-president of Home and Auto, RBC Insurance, drivers should also call their insurance company right away, so a trained insurance professional can handle the  accident claim.
“Being in a car accident is an unnerving experience so it’s easy to lose focus in the moments afterward. However, if prepared, drivers can avoid making harmful and expensive decisions immediately following a collision,” he said.
Bzowey also said drivers should authorize repairs immediately. Insurance adjustors can refer drivers to a repair facility where the repair comes with a guarantee, so don’t just go to the cheapest auto body shop you can find – they are usually cheap for a reason.
Waterloo Regional Police offer a complete downloadable and printable pamphlet that drivers can carry in their glove box and that guides a driver step by step immediately following a collision. It, as well as some other handy information, can be found on their website at www.wrps.on.ca/traffic-road-safety/collision-reporting.
Above all, drive carefully and always pay attention to your surroundings.  Also, allow plenty of time to arrive at your destination, and never ever talk or text on your cellphone while driving.