By Alex Perdikis
No one likes dealing with a fender bender, but as a driver, you’re lucky if that’s the worst you ever have to deal with. Drivers today have to be ready to deal with all types of difficult situations, from the minor fender bender to fake accidents.
How can you stay safe? Here are tips to follow if you find yourself in a dangerous situation while driving.
I’m Not Mad, You Are!
Temper, temper. Everyone faces moments of irritation while driving. Why did that guy cut me off? Did that woman really speed up so I couldn’t pass? It happens every day. But let’s face it. No one is perfect. You’ve made mistakes, too. Other drivers probably wondered what you thought you were doing when and swerved in front of them because you almost missed your exit. But, what happens when anger gets out of control?
It’s always better to avoid road rage in the first place if you can. Leave your ego at the door and drive courteously. Don’t cut people off. Do not tailgate. Don’t point, glare, make gestures, use revenge tactics or show any sign of anger.
“Let faster moving cars get by you, even if they’re speeding. It’s not your job to enforce the law. You can report speeders if you can safely do so, but let law enforcement handle lawbreakers.” – Alex Perdikis
If you make a mistake, smile and apologize to the other driver if you make eye contact. Keep your cool and you may be able to diffuse the situation before it starts.
What if you do all of that and still find yourself the target of an aggressive and angry motorist?
Follow these tips to stay safe:
- Don’t make eye contact or acknowledge the other driver in any way.
- Keep your windows rolled up.
- If the driver seems intent on interacting, drive to a public area, such as a busy store parking lot or a police station. Never drive to your home if someone is following you. Honk your horn to attract attention.
- Do not give in to the urge to stop your car, get out and talk to, or more likely yell at, the other driver.
- Get the car’s plate number.
- Call 911 if none of the above works to deter the other driver.
- If the incident was particularly egregious, file a police report.
What to Do When an Accident Isn’t Really an Accident
A car accident is possible every time you get in your car and drive down the road. That’s why you have insurance. An increasingly common scam has erupted lately where scammers fake an accident to make bogus insurance claims. And, unfortunately, those scams always involve innocent drivers like you. Here’s an overview of some of the most common staged accidents and how to protect yourself.
The Not-So-Friendly Wave
Imagine you’re trying to switch lanes. The driver in the lane you want to move to slows down and waves you ahead. What a nice guy, you think. He’s nice until you try to switch over. That’s when he speeds up and collides with your car. The driver tells police he didn’t wave you over and places the blame on you.
When a T-Bone Doesn’t Taste So Good
The t-bone scam occurs as you drive through an intersection. Another driver, waiting for the right opportunity, hits the gas and t-bones your car. This type of fake accident usually includes “witnesses” who are ready to testify that you were at fault.
Swooping, Slamming and Running the Lane Accidents
Slamming on the brakes right in front of you is one of the more simple, yet effective accident scams. It should be noted, however that if you are far enough behind the vehicle in front of you, you should be able to stop anyway.
The swoop and stop scam is where a car suddenly pulls in front of you and stops as another vehicles pulls alongside to keep you from swerving to avoid a collision.
The dual turn sideswipe occurs as your vehicle and the scammer’s attempt to make same direction turns. The fraudster swipes the side of your car and accuses you of leaving your lane.
Many of these scenarios involve not only the driver, but additional helpers who corroborate the driver’s story.
If you think you’re the victim of a staged accident, follow these guidelines:
- Record as many of the details as you can, including the other driver’s license number, vehicle registration, insurance information, contact details and general driver description as well as physical descriptions of witnesses and passengers.
- Do not move the cars until you get pictures, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Take multiple pictures of the accident damage and vehicle positions from every angle. Take pictures of the other car’s plates as well as photos of any people involved.
- Call the police and make sure they know you believe the accident was staged.
- Inform your insurance company and tell them you believe the accident was a setup. Make sure insurers receive copies of your photos and detailed notes. The insurance company will take it from there.
Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.