What to do if you are in a traffic crash

There are more than 300,000 traffic crashes in NYS each year. If you are a responsible driver and obey the traffic laws, you may avoid a crash. Yet, even the most careful drivers are sometimes involved in crashes caused by events that are not planned or by errors of other drivers.

If you are in a traffic crash, you must stop. It is a traffic violation to leave the scene of an incident, such as a traffic crash involving property damage. It is a criminal violation to leave the scene of an incident involving a fatality or personal injury. Even if the crash involves only property damage, you must exchange information with other drivers involved. Give your name, address, driver license number and vehicle registration, and insurance information, including the insurance policy number and date. Insurance information should be always carried with your registration.

Give this information to the other driver(s) and police on the scene. You must show your insurance identification card, if requested. If a parked vehicle or property other than a vehicle is damaged, or if a domestic animal is injured, you must try to locate the owner or notify the police.

If any person is injured or killed, the police must be notified immediately, and you should make sure ambulance or rescue personnel have been called.

If possible, move your vehicle off the road. Turn on your hazard lights. Protect the scene with reflectors or flares, but be alert for any fuel that might leak. Be sure to protect yourself and others from oncoming traffic.

Do not stop at a crash scene unless you are involved, or emergency help has not yet arrived. Otherwise, pay attention to driving and the directions given by traffic officers.

If help is not immediately available, do not move an injured person unless it is necessary because of fire or another life-threatening danger. If you must move an injured person, keep the back and neck as straight as possible, putting your arms under the back, supporting the head and neck with your arms, and pull the person head-first away from danger by gripping his/her clothing.

If there are wires down, do not go near them. If wires are touching the vehicle or near it, warn the occupants to remain in the vehicle until help arrives.

If you are involved in a traffic crash involving a fatality or personal injury, you must report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles. You must also report any traffic incident or crash involving $1,000 or more in damage to any one person’s property. The form Report of Motor Vehicle Accident (MV-104) is available at any motor vehicle office, from most insurance agents, and from the DMV website dmv.ny.gov (search under Forms).

When you report a crash or incident to your insurance company, it does not mean your legal obligation is finished. You must file a report with DMV within 10 days of the event. The failure to report a crash is a criminal offense (misdemeanor) and can mean the suspension or revocation of your driver license and/or registrations and those of the vehicle owner. If the driver is injured and unable to complete the report, a passenger or the vehicle owner may do so.


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