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Crash Scene 101

By on March 1, 2008

The highway is an extremely dangerous place to be a pedestrian, especially when you leave your cab after a crash. Confusion reigns around an accident scene, as backed up traffic continues to move around the vehicles involved and rubbernecking commuters are distracted by police lights and mangled metal.

This is a time for drivers involved in an accident to proceed most carefully. If you are hurt and can stay put, you might want to do so as long as your truck isn’t in a precarious position on the road and there is no threat of fire or chemical spills requiring you to bolt as fast as possible.

Know that every move you make after a crash could have life-and-death consequences. Owner-operators should create their own plan just as every major trucking company has developed a procedure for what to do following a crash.

“We want to do everything in our power to not be involved in any accidents,’’ says Dustin England, safety expert at C.R. England Transport. “But we give instructions on what to do in case of an accident, how to secure the scene and if people are hurt, to take care of them. However, we tell drivers to avoid moving injured people if possible and encourage them not to do anything that they are not qualified to do.’’

England and other safety directors shared their accident procedures with Road King. The specifics may vary from one trucking company to another, but these basic steps might save you or another traveler from serious injury.

Be seen

Actuate your flashers and maneuver your truck out of the roadway if possible. Once on the shoulder, don a reflective vest and set up the required reflective triangles to protect travelers who share the road. Department of Transportation rules require three triangles to be placed 10 feet, then 100 feet and another 100 feet behind the truck. Carry a flashlight and set up flashing emergency flare lighting at night.


Call 911 and an emergency accident reporting number for the company you’re hauling for. If you have a required automated reporting protocol to follow, take care of that right away if the situation allows.

Provide triage

Once the safety triangles are in place, see if anyone at the scene needs emergency attention. Obviously, this step isn’t as critical in the case of a minor crash. If there are injuries, help in ways you feel adequately trained for. At the very least, be able to quickly direct rescue personnel to injured people.

Assess the damage

When your safety and the safety of others is secure, document the scene following procedures set out by the trucking firm or your own predetermined procedures. Use a camera to take photos of the scene from all angles. Seek witnesses and get contact information in case you need it. Take notes on what they saw. Be prepared to provide the authorities with your CDL, registration and insurance information, then find out how to obtain the accident report at a later time.

Carry these safety items

Emergency hammer: A vital hand tool with a hardened steel point on one end that allows you to break out a window and a knife on the other end that can cut through a safety belt

Survival kit: Extra jacket, socks, boots, rain gear and blankets, water and non-perishable food

Lights and radios: flashlights, batteries and a 12-volt spotlight. Test them every few months. A weather radio or flashlight with a hand-crank generator is also helpful and may provide backup charging for your cell phone.

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Cell phone

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