AFTER A CRASH
Three in five drivers are involved in at least one collision in their lifetime. If you are charged in a crash, you may need to defend your driving actions in court. If you are found at fault in a collision where anyone is injured and transported to a medical facility, or it is your second crash in a two-year period, you will be required to attend Traffic Survival School.
Whether or not a crash is your fault, you should know how to deal with collisions if you either come upon one or are involved in one.
If you see a crash ahead, slow down and prepare to stop and render assistance if capable or pass by slowly. Do not slow down just to look. Holding up traffic, plus taking your eyes off the road may cause further collisions.
If your vehicle is involved in a crash, you must stop!
Failure to comply with your duty to give information and assistance per ARS § 28-663 is a class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a fine of $500. Failure to stop and leaving the scene of an accident involving damage to another vehicle is also a misdemeanor – a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of four months in jail and a $750 fine.
Failure to stop and leaving the scene of an accident involving physical injuries or death are felonies. In addition to the statutory penalties for the specific offense, felonies in Arizona come with sanctions like ineligibility for certain professional opportunities or government assistance, and loss of certain civil rights.
Leaving the scene of an accident involving injury other than death or serious injury is a class 5 felony, punishable by nine months to two years in jail and a $750 fine. A three-year driver’s license revocation will also be imposed. Any accident involving serious injury or death where the person leaves the scene is a class 3 felony, upgraded to a class 2 felony if the driver who failed to stop is found to have caused the accident. A serious injury is defined in ARS § 13-305 as a physical injury that causes reasonable risk of death, serious and permanent disfigurement, loss or protracted impairment of an organ or limb function, or serious impairment of health.
A class 3 felony is punishable by two and a half to seven years of jail and a $750 fine, while a class 2 felon faces four to ten years in prison and a $750 fine. A failure to stop at an accident resulting in serious injury comes with a five-year license revocation while leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death comes with a 10-year license revocation.
Regardless of whether you caused the crash, stop and wait until authorities arrive and give you instructions. Otherwise, you risk facing a hefty fine and a lengthy prison sentence.
If you are driving a vehicle that is involved in a non-injury collision, all vehicles that are still drivable must be moved to the side of the roadway. Once the roadway is as clear as possible, the participants must exchange information: name, address, phone number, license plate number and driver license number. Take pictures of the scene to document the damage for insurance purposes. The crash must be reported to law enforcement officials within 24 hours if there appears to be at least $500 in property damage.
In Cases of Injury or Damage
Property Damage – Unable to Locate Owner
If you have collided with a parked vehicle or other property, move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic, and try to find the owner. If you cannot find the owner, call the police to locate the owner. They can locate the owner through the car’s registration.
You can also leave a note on the car, but don’t count on the owner getting it. Notes can get blown off the vehicle, destroyed by rain, or taken off by other people. These rules also apply if your parked vehicle rolls away and collides with something or someone. Failure to follow these rules can be punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
Victims at the Scene
If you’re the first person to come upon a collision, move past it and park completely off the road with your hazard lights on. Immediately find out if anyone is injured. Look around the wrecked vehicle(s) in case someone injured is lying hidden from view.
Aid to the Injured/Sending for Help
Call 911! Don’t assume someone else has called. It is better for multiple calls to be made rather than none. If you cannot call 911, ensure someone else has called.
If someone is injured, apply first aid. Do not move an injured person unless they are in imminent danger, and you can safely remove them from danger. If the collision resulted in the injured person going into the water or if an explosion or fire is imminent, try to move the injured person to safety. Otherwise, just comfort the injured person and keep them calm until emergency personnel arrive.
Moving an injured person can result in further injury if there are broken bones or other internal injuries. If a motorcyclist is injured, do not try to remove the helmet, as doing so may contribute to head or neck injuries.
It’s common for people involved in crashes to experience shock. Shock is serious and can cause death, so treat the person even if they do not appear to be in shock. Treatment includes:
- Making sure the person has an open airway.
- Keeping them as still as possible.
- Refusing to give them anything to eat or drink.
- Laying the person flat and elevating their legs.
- Keeping them warm by covering them with a blanket.
Preventing Further Damage at the Scene
Warn approaching vehicles with flares, orange emergency triangles, and flashlights or by flagging them down from the side of the road.
Turn off the ignition on the wrecked vehicle and watch for spilled gasoline. Refrain from smoking near a wreck, and do not ignite flares nearby.
In the event of a crash, provided there has been no serious physical injury or fatality, the vehicles involved in the crash shall be removed from the main traveled portions of the roadway. Any licensed driver may move the vehicle as long as the vehicle is safely operable (does not require towing and can be operated under its own power) and the movement does not cause further damage to the vehicles or increase traffic hazards. Any person who removes a motor vehicle from the main traveled portion of the roadway prior to the arrival of law enforcement personnel shall not be held liable or at fault for the crash based solely on the fact the vehicle was moved.
In the event of a minor, non-injury crash, drivers should get their vehicles, if they are operable, out of travel lanes as soon as it’s safe to do so. State law requires a driver involved in a minor crash without injuries to remove a vehicle from the roadway if it is operable and can be moved safely. Quickly moving your vehicle out of travel lanes provides a safer environment to inspect your car for damage. Moving your vehicle to the emergency shoulder, median, or exiting the highway also provides a safer environment for first responders and keeps travel lanes clear for other vehicles, reducing the chance of a secondary crash. If you are involved in a crash, the first action to take is to make sure you and the occupants in your vehicle are OK. Then, if your vehicle is operable, move to the emergency shoulder, median, or exit the highway and call 911. Stay out of travel lanes, be alert, and watch approaching traffic. Remember: Never leave the scene of a crash.
FENDER BENDER? SAVE YOUR REAR AND QUICKLY CLEAR
Regardless of who is at fault for a crash, remain calm and be civil with the other drivers and witnesses. Show people involved your driver’s license, registration card, and evidence of financial responsibility, as well as your current address. If your financial responsibility is in the form of insurance, provide the company name, address, and the policy number. Collect identification, contact information, and insurance information from the other drivers involved, and keep it for your records.
Noting Damage and Injury
If any damage or injury resulted from the collision, let the other driver(s) and the police officer know and make a note of the damage by photographing it. In the absence of a police officer, file a complete report within 24 hours if the collision resulted in $500 in damage or if an injury or fatality took place. Take photos of the crash scene to record the position of all vehicles involved.
Additional Steps After a Crash
- Ask witnesses for their names and contact information.
- Give your name and address as well as the addresses of any passengers in your vehicle, if they were injured in the collision. Provide vehicle registration information, proof of financial responsibility, and your driver’s license information to any traffic officers on the scene.
- Give accurate facts to the police when they arrive. Make sure you tell them the truth as best you can recall. Don’t make guesses about what happened.
- Seek medical attention after the collision to check for injuries. Some injuries are internal, so you might not know if you have been injured.
- File supplemental reports in addition to the collision and make sure you report the incident to your insurance company.
When A Report Must Be Filed
To law enforcement:
Call the police immediately and request that an officer report to the scene of the crash when a collision involves 1) an injury or death, 2) a suspected DUI, or 3) property damage appears to be at least $500. If law enforcement isn’t available, file a crash report with the appropriate law enforcement agency within 24 hours.
Use of Reports
All collision reports are for confidential use. Collision reports will not be used as evidence in any civil or criminal trial related to the collision.
After receiving the report of a crash, officials will ascertain whether each driver was covered by the appropriate insurance at the time of the collision. If a vehicle involved did not have the proper insurance, officials may suspend that person’s driving privilege for up to a year. It’s a misdemeanor to lie or falsify vehicle insurance coverage.
All reports relating to the collision made out by police officials are available for the confidential use of any division in the department. This includes the Department of Transportation or local authority.
As a rule, police and traffic officers may not include comments about the reporting person being at fault when filing a “counter report of a property damage collision,” but there are two exceptions: 1) when the officer’s determination is the result of a physical evidence examination at the collision site shortly after the crash, and 2) when the reporting person has openly admitted they were at fault.
If You are Charged in a Crash
If charges are filed against you after a crash, you may be required to go to court. If you violated a traffic law, even if breaking the law did not cause the crash, the officer who reports to the scene will file charges. You will have a chance to explain the charges in court, and then the court will decide the penalty. Other people who witnessed or were involved in the crash may need to testify in court.
You will have to attend a Traffic Collision Avoidance Course if it is your second collision in a two-year period or if you are found at fault in a collision where anyone is injured and transported to a medical treatment facility. Failure to complete the course within 90 days will result in a cancellation of your license.