Remote Car Accident Survival
Imagine you're driving through a national park exploring the great outdoors. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and there isn't another person around for dozens of miles. It's a fantastic start to your weekend, and you're looking forward to enjoying every second of it. Suddenly, a deer shoots out from the forest and into the road before stopping directly in front of your car. You're able to swerve and avoid bulldozing the oblivious thing, but you don't manage to evade the guardrail. You crash into the railing and hear the crunch of metal as the front of your car completely caves from the impact. While you're too shaken at the moment to check yourself for injuries, you know for certain that your car isn't going anywhere. Now what?
Each year, over sixteen thousand people die in rural vehicular crashes, and nearly sixty percent of rural vehicle deaths are single-car accidents. Throw in the fact that it can take EMS twice as long, if you even have cell service to reach them, to respond to rural calls as urban emergencies, and you'll quickly realize that your life could be in severe danger if you're stranded or injured. This is precisely why you need to prepare for the possibility whenever you venture outside of city limits.
Injuries in an Isolated Area
If you crash and realize you or another person is hurt, you need to take action. Depending on the severity of the injury and if anyone else is around, your actions may vary.
Assess the Situation
After the initial accident, check yourself and any passengers for injuries. You'll also need to ensure the area is safe. When stranded in remote areas, it's best to stay with your vehicle, so it's easier for emergency personnel to locate you. However, where your car ended up may not be safe. This could be due to being way too close for comfort to a cliff face or the vehicle could be actively on fire. If that's the case, move to the nearest safe location.
Even if you don't have cell service, chances are some other provider may provide coverage to that area. Phone companies are legally required to allow 911 calls to connect even if you aren't on their network. If there's someone else with you, have them call EMS so you can begin providing first aid.
When calling 911, you'll need to provide your location, how the accident happened, and the status of any injured parties. If something is blocking the road to your location, the car is on fire, or any other important information they may need to know, be sure to inform them of that as well. You'll also want to stay on the line with the dispatcher until help arrives. This way, you can quickly tell them about any new developments, and they can direct you if need be.
Provide First Aid
If someone is suffering from a life-threatening injury, you need to administer first aid promptly. For any heavy bleeding, be sure to keep the patient warm after the bleeding has been stopped. The primary objective here is to keep the victim alive until professional help arrives, so do whatever is necessary to make that happen. If you don't currently know how to treat massive trauma, take the time to learn how to so you won't be caught off guard in the future.
Stranded in the Middle of Nowhere
Many rural accidents involve a single vehicle. Whether you weren't paying enough attention to the road or a deer decided you seemed like a good opponent for an impromptu game of chicken, you crashed, and now you're stuck. In these circumstances, you may find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a totaled car. If you aren't injured or the wounds are minor, the steps you take will be much simpler than if you're dealing with a severe injury.
Assess the Situation
Once again, check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If they're minor, such as small scrapes and bruises, treat them after you've called for help. Next, make sure your car is in a safe location. Once again, if your car is on fire or teetering off a cliff, evacuate immediately and move to a secure area. Don't venture too far from the car, though, as it will be easier for people to locate you if you're close by.
Call for Help
If you have service and there isn't anything warranting a call to 911, call a friend, tow truck, or whatever else you need to get yourself out. Nice and simple! However, you're probably reading this because you're worried about being caught without service. If you find yourself without any service, call 911 and inform them that you're stranded without the means to contact non-emergency help. They'll assist you most likely by either sending a tow truck or sending an officer to come rescue you and bring you into town.
Signal for Help if You Can't Call
Unfortunately, your phone may have died somewhere along your trip or been destroyed in the crash, and now you're completely unable to call for help. In this case, you'll need to signal oncoming vehicles. You can do this using flares, reflective items, or brightly colored items. If you have a marker, paper, or chalk, you can write a message asking for help on your car. Otherwise, you can always stand just off the road and try waving people down.
The outdoors is an amazing place to visit, but it's less enjoyable when you're stranded and potentially in danger. If your car is safe and it's not a hundred and seven degrees, it can provide shade, shelter, and warmth, depending on what you need. If you are prepared for this situation (and if you aren't prepared, read the next section), you should have most, if not all, of the supplies you'll need until help arrives.
What to do Before Traveling Anywhere Remote
Whether you're traveling for work or going on vacation (in which case I'm jealous unless it's Montana), you need to shelf your excitement for five minutes to ensure you're prepared for possibly crashing and getting stranded in the backwoods.
First and foremost, you need to tell someone where you're going, and I'm not talking about bragging. You need to pick at least one person to give your entire itinerary to and to keep updated on your progress. If you're meeting someone there, they'd be a good person to tell. No matter who you choose, they need to know the following information:
- Where you're going
- What time you plan to leave
- What time you expect to arrive
- What route you're traveling along
- Who to call if you don't check in by X time (such as the police)
You will also need to follow up with them. If you encounter a delay, tell them and give them a new anticipated arrival time. After you've arrived, you'll also need to inform them, so they won't call the cops thinking you're in a ditch somewhere. Trust me; I've made this mistake before!
Prepare for Emergencies
There are several things your car needs to take it from a useless metal box to a fully stocked shelter when it's undrivable. Below is a list of the bare minimum essentials we recommend storing in your vehicle.
- First aid kit stocked with trauma supplies
- At least a gallon of water
- Calorie-dense, nonperishable food and snacks
- Blanket, space blanket, or winter coat
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Emergency flares or reflectors
Make sure the first aid kit is stored somewhere easily accessible in case you or someone else has a life-threatening injury.
Check Along Your Route Before Leaving
Check the weather beforehand. If the weather is bad, consider traveling another time or take the necessary precautions to drive safely. For example, if it's snowing, learn about winter driving safety before leaving. I also recommend looking up other possible obstacles you may encounter. If you're driving along mountain canyons, you may encounter unpredictable rockslides and wildlife that enjoys testing fate.
Car accidents can be a scary experience without also being stranded in an isolated area. Then it becomes both challenging and dangerous for everyone involved. However, if you follow the tips above, your chances of getting out safely significantly increase. Take the necessary precautions and stay safe!