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Frequently Asked Questions

Vehicle Collisions! What To Do

Have You been involved in a vehicle collision?

Vehicle Collisions can be very traumatic. So much is happening and you may not know what you need to do. Keep this pamphlet in your vehicle just in case you find yourself in an vehicle collision.

Were You Wearing Seat Belts?

Most drivers, no matter how carefully they drive, will be involved in at least one traffic vehicle collision during their lifetime. Your chances of being injured or killed in a vehicle collision are greater than you might think. One person in three will be injured or killed. To increase your chances of surviving a collision, use your seat belts every time you are in a moving vehicle. Be sure to wear both your lap and shoulder belt if the vehicle is equipped with both, even if the vehicle is equipped with air bags.

You and any passenger age six or older or who weighs 60 lbs. or more must wear a seat belt while the car is moving. If not, you may be given a traffic ticket. You will be given a ticket if your passenger is younger than 16. A child passenger restraint system is required for any child less than the age of six or who weighs under 60 lbs. A seat belt or a child passenger restraint system may be used for each person age six or older or who weighs 60 lbs. or more.

Here are some additional tips for using a child safety seat:

  • The back seat is the safest place in the car for children 12 years old or younger.
  • Babies up to 20 lbs. and about age one should ride in a safety seat secured to the back seat facing the rear of the car. Babies should not be placed facing forward or backward in the front passenger seat if the vehicle has a passenger-side air bag.
  • Toddlers over 20 lbs. and about age one should ride in an approved safety seat in the back seat.

Common Causes of Vehicle collision

Some of the common causes of vehicle collision are:

  • Unsafe speed
  • Inattention to driving
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Improper turns
  • Violation of the right-of-way rules
  • Violation of stop signals and signs

Numbered Traffic Lanes

When news stations report vehicle collision, they refer to numbered traffic lanes. The left lane is the “No.1 lane.” The lane to the right of the No.1 lane is the No.2 lane, then the No.3 lane, etc. Here is an example.

If you hear of a vehicle collision, avoid driving near the collision or take another route, if you can. If you must drive near an collision scene, do not slow down or stop to look–you could cause another collision. Drive carefully and watch for people in the road. Always obey any order from a police officer or fire fighter even if you must ignore normal traffic laws or signs.

When You See a Vehicle collision

  • If you are the first person at a vehicle collision scene, pull completely off the road, away from the collision. Emergency personnel must be able to see the collision and stop next to it for easy access to injured persons.
    • Check to see if anyone is injured. Search the area for victims who may have been thrown from a vehicle. They may be hidden in tall grass or bushes.
  • Call 9-1-1. If another person stops to help, ask that person to call 9-1-1.
    • The person calling 9-1-1 must be ready to answer questions and provide information, such as the location of the emergency (cross streets, freeway on/off ramp information) and how many people need help (is anyone bleeding, unconscious, or without a pulse).
    • Don’t hang up! Let the emergency dispatcher hang up first
  • If possible, use flares or emergency triangles. If there is a gasoline leak or fumes, do not use the flares and don’t smoke!!
  • Help anyone who is not already walking and talking. Do not move an injured person unless he or she is in a burning vehicle or in other danger. Moving someone incorrectly often makes an injury worse.
  • Move the vehicle(s) involved out of the traffic lane if it is not disabled. Turn off the ignition of wrecked autos. Don’t smoke! Fire is a great danger.

Involved In An Accident?

If you are involved in a vehicle collision—STOP. If you don’t stop, you may be convicted of “hit and run” and could be severely punished. Someone could be injured and need your help. You must show your driver license, registration card, evidence of financial responsibility, and current address to the other driver or persons involved, or to any peace officer. Evidence of financial responsibility is usually an insurance company name and a policy number. If you do not have it, you will receive a citation and a $250 fine.

You or your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative must do the following:

  • Move your vehicle off the street or highway. If you do not move your vehicle or have it removed from the street or highway, any peace officer or authorized personnel may have your vehicle removed and impounded. (VC 22651 and 22651.05)
  • Pull over to the side of the road and stop if you kill or injure an animal. Try to find the owner. If you can’t find the owner, call the nearest humane society or call the police or CHP. Do not try to move an injured animal. Never leave an injured animal to die.
  • Try to find the owner if you hit a parked vehicle or other property. Identify yourself before you leave. If you can’t find the owner, leave a note with your name and address (and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle you are driving) in the vehicle or securely attached to it. Report the accident without delay to the city police or, in unincorporated areas, to the CHP.
  • Report the accident to the police or CHP within 24 hours of the accident if someone is killed or injured.
  • Report the accident to the DMV within 10 days, if there is more than $750 in damage to the property of any person, or anyone is injured (no matter how slightly) or killed.

How Much Insurance?

You must be financially responsible for your actions whenever you drive and for all motor vehicles you own. Most drivers choose to have an automobile liability insurance policy as proof of financial responsibility. If you have an accident not covered by your insurance, your license will be suspended. If the driver is not identified, the owner of the motor vehicle involved will have his or her license suspended.

The minimum amount your insurance must cover is:

  • $15,000 for a single death or injury.
  • $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for property damage caused by one accident.

DMV Accident Reporting

When you have an accident, report it to DMV using the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR 1) form. You or your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative must complete the SR 1 report and send it to the DMV within 10 days if someone is killed or injured (no matter how minor the injury) or property damage is over $750. The SR 1 report is required in addition to any other report made to the police, CHP, or your insurance company.

The SR 1 form is available at DMV field offices, at CHP offices, or online (www.dmv.ca.gov) (see link in previous paragraph). This report is required whether you caused the collision or not, and even if the collision occurred on private property.

Your driving privilege will be suspended if you do not complete a Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR 1) form or if you did not have the proper insurance coverage at the time of the vehicle collision.

Every vehicle collision reported to DMV by law enforcement will show on your driving record unless the reporting officer says another person was at fault. Every vehicle collision reported by you or another party in the collision, will show on your record if:

  • any vehicle involved has over $750 in damage, or
  • anyone is injured or dies.

It does not matter who caused the vehicle collision. The law says DMV must keep this record.

Vehicle Collision Recap

The following information will help you complete the SR 1 form. (Keep it in your glove box.)
Do not use this information or this pamphlet to replace filing the SR 1 form.

Your insurance company name/policy #

Date & Time of Accident

Location of accident

NOTE: You must give your current address and show these documents to any peace officer or person involved in the vehicle collision:

  • Your driver license
  • Your registration card
  • Evidence of financial responsibility
  • Your insurance company name/policy #

Other driver information:

  • Driver's date of birth
  • Driver's DL #/State
  • Driver's name & address
  • Driver's license plate #/State
  • Driver’s insurance company name
  • Policy # and expiration date
  • Policy holder's name & address
  • Vehicle owner's name & address
  • Injuries or property damage

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.