5 Steps to Follow When Reporting an Accident

Reporting a road or highway accident or emergency by cell phone? Follow these tips.

Step 1: Follow “Safety first” procedures.

  • Be sure you are safe.
  • If you are driving, pull over to a safe spot, turn on your hazard lights (flashers) and stop before calling for help.
  • Be watchful of the potential for additional accidents caused by the first accident.
  • Stay out of the path of oncoming vehicles.

WHN TIP – Be Safe, Be Smart: Never EVER risk your own safety.

Step 2: Write down the needed information

  • Location of the emergency
  • Road name or number
  • City, State
  • Closest cross street or off-ramp, milepost or another identifier
  • Direction of travel
  • Any distinguishing landmarks

Step 3: Call the appropriate agency.

  • On a highway? Call the State Highway Patrol for that state.
  • Some states have special cellphone-only numbers to report highway/vehicle-related problems such vehicle breakdowns/problems, accidents, hazardous material spills, or other highway hazards/problems, as well as impaired or aggressive/reckless drivers and other criminal behavior.
  • Not sure whom to call? Call 9-1-1 — the universal emergency number in the United States. Using your mobile phone? Follow this advice from the FCC:
    • Tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away.
    • Provide the emergency operator with your wireless phone number, so if the call gets disconnected, the emergency operator can call you back.
    • If your wireless phone is not “initialized” (meaning you do not have a contract for service with a wireless service provider), and your emergency call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator does not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.

Step 4: Describe the nature of the emergency.

  • Crash
  • Reckless or suspected drinking driver
  • Traffic hazard
  • Medical emergency
  • Fire
  • Crime in progress, etc.

Step 5: Provide Your Information

  • Your name
  • Mobile phone number, and home and work phone numbers in case more information is needed.
  • It is important that you stay on the line until the dispatcher says he or she has enough information to be able to send help.

WHN TIP – Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks: Calling for trained, professional help is the best approach, although in an immediate life-threatening situation it may be appropriate to take rescue action provided the “rescuer” is not endangered.