Nothing says summer like a road trip, but even the best laid plans can hit a few bumps in the road. With AAA Texas anticipating a record 3.3 million Texans to travel by car for their Independence Day getaway, there is no doubt some travelers will run into trouble on the road. In fact, AAA Texas expects to rescue more than 18,000 motorists at the roadside throughout the holiday weekend.
Picture this: you’ve taken all the right steps to prepare for your upcoming road trip. You visited AAA.com/RoadTrips to pick out the perfect driving destination. You planned your route, found a scenic highway to cruise and the perfect lunch spot with AAA TripTik. A week before you left, you had a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop check your vehicle’s battery, engine and tires to make sure they were travel ready. You even got plenty of rest the night before to stay alert on the road. But three hours into your drive and… disaster strikes!
With these tips from AAA Texas, an unexpected issue on the road doesn’t have to spell the end of your trip entirely.
VIDEO FOR NEWS MEDIA
If Your Vehicle Breaks Down
Since surroundings, traffic patterns and vehicle hazards can vary, it’s important to evaluate your specific situation and react accordingly. Federal crash statistics showed 566 people were killed and 14,371 injured each year over 2016-18 in crashes on all types of roads involving a disabled vehicle in which visibility was likely a factor, according to a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The following steps are a good starting place:
- Note your vehicle’s location. If you encounter a problem while driving, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and general location. Know where you are in relation to a major exit or cross street and look for well-lighted areas. If you are on an interstate highway, note the mile marker, last exit number or nearest rest area.
- Assess the problem. While driving, be aware of and know how to respond to warning signs such as steering problems, unusual noises or steam or smoke coming from under the hood. If it’s a flat tire or you run out of gas, try not to panic. Signal, slow down gradually and carefully pull onto the shoulder of the road, avoiding any sudden maneuvers.
- Pull off the road. On most roads, you should exit onto the far-right shoulder, as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. If you are driving on an interstate or multiple-lane highway with medians, you may consider the left shoulder, again pulling as far away from traffic as possible. If you exit the vehicle, never stand behind or directly in front of it to help avoid injuries if your car is struck by another vehicle.
- What if you cannot pull off the road? If your vehicle loses power and is inoperable, switch on safety/emergency flashers. Do not risk personal injury by attempting to push it to a safe location. If you cannot get your vehicle to a location away from traffic, or if you are uncertain about your safety and think your vehicle may get struck from behind, get out of the vehicle and move away from the road to a safer location.
- Alert other drivers. Make sure your vehicle is visible to other drivers, remembering that they may be traveling at a high rate of speed. Turn on the emergency flashers, especially at night or during inclement weather.
- Raise your vehicle’s hood. If you have a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf, tie it to the antenna or door handle, or hold it in place by closing it in a window. Place flares or warning triangles behind your car to direct oncoming traffic away from the vehicle. If you are experiencing a fuel leak or smell fuel fumes, do not ignite a flare or use anything that produces a spark or flame.
- Communicate your situation. Once you and any passengers are in a safe location, notify others of your vehicle breakdown. Make note of surroundings and landmarks, buildings or road signs.
- If you have a cell phone, immediately use it to call for help. Make the call from inside your vehicle if you are safely out of traffic. Otherwise, do so at a safe distance from the vehicle and roadway.
- Remain with your vehicle. Safety experts agree that under most circumstances if you are able to pull away from traffic, it is safest to remain in your vehicle until a law enforcement officer or road service provider arrives.
- In some circumstances, when there is no other alternative, you may need to rely on the help of a friendly motorist or passerby. Should this be your only alternative to get help, ask for identification including name, phone number and address before accepting assistance. Write this information down and leave it with another person, or in the vehicle, explaining where you are going, when you expect to return and what you hope to accomplish.
- If you choose to exit the vehicle, do so safely and well away from oncoming traffic and your vehicle. If possible, you and any passengers should exit through the side of the vehicle facing away from the road.
- If you choose to stay inside your vehicle, keep the windows almost closed and the doors locked. It’s very dangerous to lower your windows or open your vehicle doors to strangers. If a stranger does stop to offer help, ask the person to call for emergency road service.
- When help arrives, reputable firms have trained personnel who understand what to do in most situations. It’s important to remain calm and cooperative.
- AAA Texas service personnel should display an approved AAA emblem on their vehicles or produce identification.
- Verify the name of the garage or the provider if you have any concerns.
- Do not attempt to help the service representative unless he or she asks for assistance.
- It’s your responsibility to understand what services your emergency road service or insurance policy will cover and to pay for any repairs.
- Always get a receipt.
If You Are Involved in a Crash
An auto collision can be an emotional and exhausting experience. Many motorists drive defensively, take driver education courses and prepare for stressful driving situations, but unfortunately vehicle collisions still occur.
A driver is responsible for knowing what to do if they are involved in a collision. Even the most prepared and competent drivers sometimes find themselves involved in a crash. It does not matter who is at fault, the most important thing to do first is make sure everyone is OK, then seek medical and law enforcement help and know what to do to protect yourself from legal or financial problems down the road.
The best defense to avoid any problems after a crash is to be prepared. Keeping a pen and paper, disposable camera or cell phone camera, and copy of your insurance card easily accessible at all times will help keep you organized and decrease stress moments after a collision. Use of a mobile app such as AAA Insurance can help you properly document the event.
After stopping your vehicle, AAA Texas recommends all motorists involved in an auto crash follow these steps:
- Stay calm and assess the situation. Take a deep breath, then check the scene to see if anyone is injured or in imminent danger. If you smell gasoline or see smoke, move as far away as safety allows. Do not attempt to put out a fire yourself.
- Call 911 for help with any apparent injuries or hazards (such as a fire).
- Seek safety. Resist the urge to confront or swap information with the other driver(s) immediately. Instead, quickly get yourself and others out of harm’s way. If your car is driveable, move it to the shoulder or an emergency lane. Turn on your hazard lights and—if you can do so safely—set out flares or reflectors.
- Be careful of what you say. Don’t blame others or take the blame. An investigation may find you weren’t responsible, and saying “I’m sorry” could complicate your insurance claim(s). While you're at it, don't show your policy or share your policy limits with others involved in the crash. Discuss the details of the collision only with police, medical professionals, and your insurance agent.
- Notify the authorities if a call to 911 is unnecessary. Add contact information for first responders in your area to this checklist. If the collision is minor and police do not come to the scene, it’s in your best interest to file a report at a local police station as soon as possible.
- Take photos of the scene and any involved vehicles using your smartphone.
- Exchange information with the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s). Collect each driver’s name, driver’s license number, and auto insurance carrier and policy number. Never leave the scene before exchanging information. If police were called, wait for them to arrive; otherwise, you could be deemed a hit-and-run driver, and criminal charges could be brought against you.
- Record important details, including:
- the date and time of the crash
- the exact location (note mile markers, cross streets, landmarks, etc.)
- the direction(s) you and the other driver(s) were traveling
- the details about visibility or weather conditions
- the license plate(s) and ID numbers of vehicles involved
- the names and phone numbers of any witnesses
- Contact your state department of motor vehicles or transportation to find out whether you are required by law to report the accident to them. You may want to keep a traffic accident/crash report form (typically available online from the DMV or DOT) in your vehicle, so you’ll be prepared if you do in a car accident. Don’t count on getting pertinent details for your insurance claim from the police report; it may not be ready for days.
- Alert your agent. Notify your car insurance company as soon as possible. If you’re a AAA Member, call (800) 924-6141. The longer you delay, the more complicated filing a claim becomes. Even if the damage seems minor, don’t let anyone persuade you to settle informally. The other driver may offer to cover your costs—until he or she sees the bill.
- If you or a passenger is injured:
- Keep track of any medical expenses.
- File an insurance claim. If you were at fault, your car insurance policy's medical payments coverage will be used in combination with your health insurance to help pay the bills. If another driver was to blame, you'll need to submit an insurance claim and a repair estimate to that driver’s insurance company. If other people are injured in the crash and you were at fault, their medical expenses will be covered by your bodily injury liability coverage, up to your auto insurance policy’s limits.
For peace of mind on the road, talk with an expert at AAA Insurance today to learn about coverage options and get a free quote.
Although you may know what to do if you’re driving your own car, do the same procedures hold true if you’re behind the wheel of a car that belongs to a rental company? Here are some extra steps you should do if you are involved in a crash while driving a rental car.
- Call your rental car company. Here’s the extra step that needs to happen when you’re driving a rental car rather than your own. Call the emergency phone number for your rental company. It will be on your rental paperwork and is often on the outside of the paperwork folder, too. You should make sure you know where to find this information before you even walk away from the rental counter, just in case.
Once you call the rental company, let them know you’ve been in a crash and ask them what they would like you to do next. They will want to know the extent of the damage including whether the car can still be driven. The company will tell you whether they want you to drive the car somewhere, perhaps to the nearest rental office, or if they want to have the car towed. Follow the rental company’s instructions and be sure to ask questions if you’re not clear on exactly how they want you to proceed.
- Call your insurance company. Once you’ve notified the rental company, you also need to notify your personal auto insurance company. They’ll want the same information you already collected for the police and the rental company, so have it ready.
Who covers what depends on your individual policy, the credit card you used to rent the car and any insurance coverage you may have elected to purchase at the time of the rental. Making sure your insurance company and the rental company have the necessary information on a crash will make things move more smoothly.
Don’t wait too long before you call your insurance company. Putting off calling them may cause problems with the claim, so call them sooner rather than later.
- Take care of the rental car. Don’t think simply because it’s not your car, it’s not your problem. You are responsible for the car while it’s your rental, so treat it as you would your own car. Even though it’s been damaged in a crash, you want to be sure it safely gets to wherever the car rental company specifies. See that it’s towed away or drive it directly to the rental office if that’s what the company requests.
- File a report with the rental car company. You need to start by calling the rental company, but there’s more to the process. You also need to fill out an accident report, which is often available for download on the company’s website.
While you don’t need to do this immediately, much like reporting the accident to your own insurance company, this needs to be done promptly. It’s also a good idea to do it as soon as possible so there’s no problem with the claim and while the details are all fresh.
Much of what happens if you crash your rental car is the same as what you do if the same occurred in your personal car. Stay calm, make sure everyone is safe and then properly report the accident to the parties involved.
AAA provides more than 62 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of independently owned motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, AAA has been a leader and advocate for the motorist and safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. AAA Texas branch offices throughout the state can be found by visiting www.AAA.com. Follow AAA Texas on Twitter: @AAATexas and Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAATexas.