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Perhaps one of the most terrifying happenings in a driver’s life is the nearly-guaranteed-to-happen-at-least-once-before-you’re-too-old-to-drive car accident. When this happens, be prepared, be safe, and be smart. Follow these simple instructions if you happen to find yourself with the front end of your car smashed into a guardrail or rear end smashed by someone following too close.

Shut off the car. If the gas tank is damaged or punctured, you don’t want the hot fumes to ignite a spark. Then the dent in the side of the passenger door would be the least of your problems.

Check the passengers. Are they ok? Any broken bones? Extensive bleeding? Call 911 if needed.

If another car was involved, go talk to the driver. Exchange insurance information, phone numbers, and such. Your insurance company probably has a recommended list of information they prefer you to ask for and exchange, so ask them for this worksheet and keep it in your car.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the world’s greatest driver; the other person probably doesn’t know that yet; so don’t accuse. Everyone is going to feel a bit on edge. Now is not the time to have an argument about who is at fault.

Call the police and file a report. Then call your insurance company.

Go home and pretend it never happened. Not really, unless you want your car to remain damaged and you don’t mind encounters with the local PD.

If your insurance company recommends that you get your car repaired at a Direct Repair Facility (DRP facility), it might be in your best interest to follow the company’s advice. They recommend the DRP’s because they know the repair shop won’t take its sweet time in fixing your automobile to the condition it was* before you smashed into the tree. DRP philosophy is to make getting your car repaired as painlessly as possible. The arm in the sling is evidence that you’ve been in enough pain as it is. You can get similar service from other non-DRP places, but then you’d actually have to go out and look for it. Do whichever you feel most comfortable doing.

In Oregon, the car owner has the choice as to where their vehicle is repaired. Don’t think that you must go to one specific auto body repair shop or DRP.

* Insurance companies entitle you to having your car repaired to the way it was before the crash. So if it was a piece of garbage before, it will be a piece of garbage after. No use trying to convince State Farm that that wreck that looks like it used to be a mini-van was actually once a 1967 hot rod. Yet it is your decision about what type of parts to fix the car with: Original Equipment (OEM) or non-original Equipment (After-Market). Regardless of your choice, the parts must be of Like Kind and Quality (LKQ). The repair shop you choose should recommend which would be the better choice in your given situation.

There are certain features that a car can have to make sure it is better prepared for the hazards of the road. Make sure your car is equipped with them before you drive 100 mph on a dark highway.

While anti-lock brakes (ABS) can’t promise that they will prevent you from getting into an accident, they are a key factor in avoiding collisions. ABS prevents the wheel from locking when you slam your foot on the brake in alarm so you can actually swerve out of the way of the deer standing dumb-founded in the middle of the road. Yet, the total benefits of anti-lock brakes only come with those cars that are equipped with it on all four wheels. Cars what have it on only two wheels can in fact cause the front wheels to lock up when you slam on the brakes, which can ultimately result in loss of steering control.

One of the peskiest things a driver can encounter is the guy following way too close with his headlight high beams shining blindingly into the rearview mirror. Get a car with automatic dimming rearview mirrors. Typical cars have the manual switch you can use to reduce that annoying blinding light. Automatic ones, instead of allowing you to look at the road at a different angle, get dimmer as the glare in the mirror gets brighter. Some cars even have outside mirrors that automatically tint.

Ceilings of cars may be equipped with head injury protection, which is foam or a similar material that absorbs energy and cannot be seen from riders in the car. Some cars even have air bags for the head. Both functions protect a head when it hits the top part of a car.

That nifty little headrest that is on the back of the seat is actually a head restraint. It limits a head’s movement during a crash and can reduce the possibility of a neck sprain. Restraints are adjustable for your safety and can be most effective when then top of the restraint is between the top or your ears and the top of your head. The restraint should allow your head to rest parallel with your neck and not push your head forward or allow you to lean it back.

Traction control improves stability, so when you slam on your brakes to try and outrun that drunk guy behind you, you have a better chance of actually going somewhere versus weaving out of control like an old man on water skis. This system controls and adjusts engine power and can apply brakes to certain wheels when you accelerate. This is most commonly found on cars with four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes.

While accidents are bound to happen, you can at least equip your car so that they occur less often.