Can I Get a Witness? (Or, What To Do When You See a Wreck).

So this morning on the way to work, I witnessed a car accident. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that:

a) It was a little more serious than a fender-bender, yet not quite as serious as what happens when crash-test dummies smoke pot.

b) Nobody was hurt (although the one guy–who was just a kid, really–was totally freaking out).

c) I had the prime view of the whole deal. Comparable to floor seats at a Lakers’ Game. In fact, I wondered at first if I might have (unwittingly) helped cause it, because I couldn’t figure out any reason for it unless my pickup truck had been blocking one guy’s view of the other guy (although I was sitting perfectly still at a stoplight, and doing nothing illegal or untowards, unless you count the fact that I was singing along to Kenny Loggins).

So I did what I thought anyone would do. Parked safely to the side, then went back to the scene to see if everyone was OK and to serve as a witness to the accident (one other woman–don’t know where she was when the crash happened–did the same).


The whole ordeal made me late for work, and my mother called my office phone promptly at 8:00 (to inform me that she’s making meatloaf tonight). My boss (whom I’d already phoned) told her the deal, and when I finally got to the office and called her back, she was upset because I’d stopped and gotten involved, given my (work) contact info, etc. I should, she said, “know better than that by now.”

(I don’t know exactly what this means. I can only surmise that she was referring to an incident several years ago when, backing out of her driveway, I witnessed a guy in a Jeep hop a curb and obliterate her neighbor’s mailbox and garden trellis. I ran over to see if *that * guy was OK (he was–in fact, a few seconds later he peeled on outta there in order to avoid the cops), and my mom (who’d heard the crunch) ran out and started screaming at me to get away from there and back into the house. But really, nothing bad happened. The cops were able to follow a trail of leaking fluid right to the guy’s house, where he was attempting to hide the Jeep under a tarp in his garage.)

So am I mistaken in thinking that it’s the law to stop if you’ve witnessed an accident? Is that just something they say to scare gullible people like me into playing along with “The Man’s” grand scheme? Am I just a patsy?


I still think it was the right thing to do, even if it’s *not * the law. It never occurred to me to do anything else.

OK. I’m done.

IAMNAL but I don’t think there’s a law saying you have to stop for an accident unless you’re actually in it (and even then, you don’t necessarily, depending on the circumstances).

I do think it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes safety and logistics might prevent you from actually stopping. Under those circumstances, calling the CHP and saying “I was witness to an accident at this time and this location, and if I can be of any service, here’s my info.” That way, you’re on record if you’re needed without having to actually stop (and that way, you can be a little more objective about what you witnessed, too).

I don’t know if it’s the law, but sheesh–yes, it’s the right thing to do. Witnesses to an accident often give first aid and/or provide relatively objective details to the involved insurance companies. I guess if you thought you were going to endanger yourself by stopping (road rage incident, for example) you would be justfified in just calling the cops.

Maybe your mom was just worrying like moms do.

Justified, I mean.

And the first aid would be to the people involved in the accident, not the insurance companies.

Guess I need more caffeine.

Well, I didn’t end up actually making any statements to the police, but gave them contact information and headed to work.

And I agree that if it had been 2 am on a deserted road and I’d been all alone, I might have thought twice about stopping, and done something similar to what you suggested, ArchiveGuy. But in bright daylight and morning traffic, I felt totally safe.

And if I can hijack my own thread a little, I just read this Pit thread, in which Baker saw a young child left alone in a car in a grocery store parking lot, and tried to help. And my first thought when I read her thread was, “I wonder how many other people saw that kid and did nothing? Would I have done anything besides shake my head ruefully before heading in to buy my paper towels and Twinkies?”

If you ask me, there seems to be a shortage of people willing to “get involved” lately.

It’s because they either just don’t want to get involved, or some believe that someone, eventually, would.

It’s because they either just don’t want to get involved, or some believe that someone, eventually, would.

. . . or because they know it would cause their mothers to have a collective massive coronary. :wink:

If at all possible, you should stop and A) make sure everyone is OK; B) call the authorities fi no one else has; and C) wait for the police and tell them wat you saw. I know if I were in an accident I would want witnesses to verify what happened. At least MY version of what happened, anyway.

IANAL, but I’m going to advise you not to mention that in the deposition. Criminy, woman, even if you weren’t charged with “crimes against nature” you’re testimony would be shot. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

IANAS(peller) either. “Your testimony”. It should be “your testimony”.

The singing or the listening? :smiley: :wink:

In some class I took (Psych 101, perhaps) I remember learning that if there’s ever an emergency in public, don’t just yell “somebody help!” Point to someone specific, and say, “You. Do blah blah blah. You, do blah2 blah2 blah2”, if at all possible. That’s one of the things that’s stuck with me most from my college education. It made me realize that if I don’t stop to help, ramdom person 1 probably won’t, because they’re assuming random person 2 has.

I make an effort to be random person 2, in general. This includes things like grabbing something falling from someone’s arm at the grocery store, etc. At times it might seem a bit pushy, but more often than not it’s appreciated.

Sorry if that was any sort of hijack. :slight_smile: The subject has fascinated me for years.

I think the world may need more Random Person 2s.

Of course, my grandmother was the Random Person 2 who handled the babies of strangers in grocery stores and restaurants, and offered unsolicited advice to the family loading the luggage into the car at the airport.

So I suppose there is a line to be crossed . . .

But overall, P-star, I approve of your . . . er . . . Randomness. :wink:

Ah, the Kitty Genovese Syndrome all over again!

auntie em you did the correct thing.

auntie, I say you did the right thing in stopping and being a witness. Mr2U had something similar to what you saw happen with him last winter - however the accident was much more serious. After it was all said and done, settled, etc., he ended up getting a - well - I guess you’d call it a “reward” from one of the people involved that he’d had no idea was coming. Money is good! :slight_smile:

Now this Kenny Loggins thing? You and I really, really, really need to have a long, long talk…

But . . . But Missy . . . Heart to Heart is such a good song. :smiley:

Duckster, you make an excellent point, although I have to say that the Kitty Genovese deal is kind of different. NOT to say that there was nothing anyone could or should have done (I mean, if you have a phone, for God’s sake . . . ), but at least there’s almost some logic in wanting to stay out of that fray. It was the middle of the night, and someone was being attacked and killed. Getting involved might have gotten a would-be good samaritan killed, too.

A car accident at 8 am in a business district is another thing.

applause to you, auntie em. yes, it’s definitely the right thing to do. and that you actually, knowingly inconvenienced yourself in the process of doing it should rightfully earn you Big Karma Points.

i did something similar once myself. it was wintertime, and i was waiting my turn at an intersection with 4-way stop signs. what unfolded in front of me was damn-near balletic. details are a bit hazy now. i think one car slid on the icy pavement, hit another, which wound up striking a third innocently sitting at another stop sign. it was like watching live-action pinball. :eek:

i felt really bad for the person who got smacked while they were sitting there minding their own business. knowing how easily everyone else starts assigning fault and blame, i pulled over and waited while the cops arrived. to while away the time, i even sketched out the sequence of events (thereby justifying my multi-color pen hoarding habit). i gave the sketch, my version of the accident and contact info to the cops, then went on my way. never heard anything about it again.

but i felt like a Good Person for quite a while. :smiley:

It was the right thing to do since you could safely pull over.

I, too, witnessed an accident and pulled over. There were no injuries, but I figured the police would want to know there was a witness, seeing as the other eight people that witnessed it went on their merry way without stopping.

The policeman was surprised I stopped, but appreciative. Then he took my license for identification and ran it for wants and warrants. That seemed a little rude to me.

A few springs ago, we had front row tickets to a 1-car accident - we were behind a guy who swerved into the other lane of traffic (we were far enough back so the oncoming car was able to swerve around him), hit a telephone pole & flipped.

We pulled over (as did several other cars) - called 911 & went to check on the driver - he was shaken but OK. We made our report to the police & left.

Found out later that the guy was reaching over on the passenger’s seat for some Easter candy & reflexively pushed the wheel the other way… :rolleyes:

Were they Cadbury eggs, Politzania? It’s completely understandable if they were Cadbury eggs. :wink:

And after reading leenmi’s tale, I guess I understand why people don’t stop . . . sheesh.