Perhaps the road was slippery or maybe you overcorrected when you swerved to save a squirrel, but the net result is the same: when last you saw the squirrel he was scampering into the brush as your car went headlong into the ditch on the other side of the road. Accidents happen, and while it is impossible to anticipate when that happening will occur, it is important to know what to do in the aftermath of a roadside mishap. Since winter is coming and bringing with it treacherous driving conditions, now is time to prepare in case you get stuck in a ditch.
Prepping for Emergencies Before they Happen
According to the Canadian Safety Council, prepping for an emergency prior to an accident is key should your driving plans go awry. Towards that end, making sure you have a cache of supplies handy will help you in your situation until emergency crews arrive to help. As such, a basic car emergency kit should minimally consist of the following:
- Plastic bottles full of water
- Food that won't spoil (e.g. energy bars, canned goods)
- Warm clothes
- First aid kit
- Whistle (to attract attention)
- Wind up flashlight
- Candle in deep can and matches
In addition to these basic survival supplies, be sure to have these items in your trunk:
- Tow rope
- Jumper cables
- Sand, salt, or non-clumping cat litter
- Warning light or road flares
- Fire extinguisher
Don't Panic: Collect Yourself
The first thing you need to do once you've gone into the ditch is to collect yourself and not panic. Quickly assess your physical condition to make sure that no one is hurt in your car, and use your first aid kit as needed to administer help. Once you have determined that all the vehicle's occupants are safe and sound, you need to figure out what is going on with your car.
First of all, make sure it is safe to exit your vehicle before attempting to leave. Make sure that no oncoming traffic is threatening to follow you into that ditch. In such instances, it is always safest to remain in the car. Once you have determined a safe exit is possible, you want to make sure that your car is not sticking out into the roadway, and determine whether you can safely exit.
What to Do Next
In an ideal world, you will be able to throw the car into reverse and simply back out of the ditch with nothing but a good case of the "shakes" and a harrowing tale to tell around the office water cooler. However, if it was an ideal world, you probably wouldn't have gone into the ditch in the first place. If your car is disabled, or you are unable to get yourself pulled out of the ditch, be sure to set up your roadside flares to maximize visibility for other drivers.
Request Emergency Help
After you have determined the extent of your vehicle's damage, secured your position with warning flares, and taken care of anyone hurt in the accident, you want to return to your vehicle and call for emergency help. From onboard emergency notification in the event of an accident, such as On-Star systems, to the convenience of calling for a tow on your cell phone, you can safely call for emergency help from inside your car after you've gone into the ditch.