A car accident witness: do’s and don’ts when assisting the victims
When a traveller becomes a car witness
It often happens that while travelling by car you may witness a car accident. Witness testimony may not be required if the accident was recorded by the surveillance camera. However, mostly, there are no witnesses. Particularly, if we talk about rural highways.
Witness testimony is objective, because the perpetrator and the victim abound in their own sense, unlike witnesses, their viewpoints may not be true.
Rights and obligations of car accident witnesses
If to solve an administrative or criminal case one should pay attention to the circumstances reported by the witness, he or she receives a “witness” status. The latter should:
- inform the investigation about the car crash mechanism, the way both parties drove their cars;
- explain when the road danger emerged;
- tell about road and traffic conditions;
- describe road marking, traffic lights, etc.;
- specify the location where a car accident took place;
- describe his/her physical condition at the time of the accident, including eye condition.
The witness has the right not to give testimonies if they concern his relatives or himself. However, he can provide the police with the recording from his dashboard camera.
How to act if you have witnessed a car accident
Once you have witnessed a car crash, you should stop and give first aid to both parties of the car accident. If you leave a person in danger, that means you act cruelly. Such a behavior shall be prosecuted by law. Only 20% of people die because of fatal injuries, 10% — due to delays of ambulances and 70% (!) due to neglect of the witnesses. Earlier witnesses used just to stare at car accidents. These days they take their smartphones and start shooting videos.
If possible, try to seal off the accident scene. The barriers should be located at a distance of between 15 (in populated areas) and 30 metres (outside the populated areas).
You should call the ambulance, rescue team and traffic police. If it is impossible, inform passing car drivers about the situation.
If a car is unstable, try to lock it in stable position using the equipment you have at hand.
Then try to take actions that can save victims from more severe consequences. For instance, if there is a risk that a car involved in the accident will burn, quickly evacuate both the driver and the passengers. Check for a source of ignition and fuel leakage. And please, don’t smoke!
Give first aid to the victims of the car accident if there are any. However, keep in mind that you should give first aid before appropriate services (Ministry for Emergency Situations, traffic police, and emergency medicine) arrive. The sooner they arrive, the more qualified will be their assistance. That is why the first thing a witness should do is to call the emergency response service.
If a car accident perpetrator is going to escape, try to remember an identification number of his car, its model and colour.
When traffic police officers arrive, a witness should tell them everything he knows about the accident.
Looking for witnesses
If a person himself got in a car accident, circumstances of a car crash are quite ambiguous, the other party of the accident (perpetrator or the victim) does not want or simply can’t give testimonies, witness testimonies become a crucial part of the investigation. Sometimes you have to look for the witnesses yourself. Mass media, social media, private detectives, etc. may help you here. Most of the cars that pass you by have dashboard cameras. The sooner you start looking for the witnesses, the greater the chances that video recordings for the desired period will be saved. If a car accident took place in a populated area, look for the cameras that may have recorded it, as well as people who live or work nearby. The so-called “bystanders” quite often may provide you with valuable information right after the accident.
Thus, drive carefully. However, if you have witnessed a car accident, be savvy, act firmly and keep calm.
We hope that this article was helpful. Do not forget to obtain your International Driving Permit. Have a safe trip!