Five Things You Need to Do When Involved in a Multi-Vehicle Pileup

There are no rigid rules, but these five steps may help you live to tell

We all have seen car pileups on TV, but nothing can prepare us for being involved in one for real. Whether they're caused by reckless driving, slippery asphalt, fog, or blizzards, multiple-vehicle collisions are dreadful for those involved.

Being trapped inside a crashed metal box not knowing whether the bangs from the behind will end or a big semi truck will sweep everything off the road has to be one of the scariest experiences one can have in a car.

While there's not much you can do to influence the outcome of such an event, there are decisions you can make to increase your chances of surviving. Here are the five most important things you need to do if you're involved in a pileup.

#5 Turn on the hazard warning lights

Turning on the hazard warning lights every time you have to slow down suddenly, or you are stationary on the road is an essential thing. It goes without saying that in the case of a pileup, turning on the hazard lights is the first thing you must do, as that increases your chances of alerting other road users coming from behind of the impending danger.

#4 Determine whether it's safer to stay in the car or get out

Most people agree the safest thing to do after your vehicle has crashed into a pileup is to remain inside. Given that most collisions of this type happen in low visibility conditions exiting the vehicle to find safe ground is a lottery.

If you don't see far enough behind and attempt to get to the side of the road, you could be in the wrong place when the next incoming vehicle hits. You may have more chances of survival by staying inside, where the car's airbags can protect you. If the airbags have already deployed in the initial impact, it would be wiser to get out if visibility allows it.

Provided it's safe to do it, leaving the car and moving quickly off the roadway gives you the best chances of survival.

#3 Call 911/112

You can't possibly know how many people have called emergency services before you, so you should do that as soon as you're in a safe position. That will let them know about the accident and if you and your passengers are injured or not. Response time is crucial in cases like this and can make the difference between life and death.

#2 If it's safe, try to walk as far back as possible and signal incoming drivers to slow down

That's not something everyone has the guts to do, but if visibility is sufficient you can save many lives by doing it. If there's not enough room on the side of the road you'd better not try it, as you will be too exposed to incoming traffic.

#1 Take photos and videos of the accident scene

Using your cell phone camera or other devices, try to take pics and videos of the entire accident scene: the positions of vehicles if they haven't been moved, street signs, road and weather conditions, and skid marks. It's a good idea to get visual evidence of damage to your vehicle as well as injuries to you and your passengers. The photos and videos may help investigators establish the cause of the accident and may prove very useful for yourself when you'll have to deal with the insurance people.

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