And as we slowly make our way closer and closer, the catastrophe gradually reveals itself to our wondering eyes: two cars, nose to tail, damage barely perceptible to the naked eye, fully blocking an entire lane of traffic, while the drivers stubbornly wait for the police to arrive to adjudicate who was right and who was wrong.
Problem is, the police aren’t going to do that. Truth is, as long as the damage is minor and you can drive your car, and nobody is injured or killed, the officers don’t want to be there at all – they just want you to move out of the traffic lanes. So do the thousands of cars queued up behind you.
Here’s the reality: If you are in an accident, you are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law to stop and exchange information with the involved drivers. YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO REMAIN AT THE SPOT OF THE ACCIDENT unless there are injuries or a death, or your vehicle is incapable of being driven safely.
In the event of a minor fender-bender, you should carefully pull over to a safe, nearby curb or shoulder, out of the flow of traffic, to exchange information. It is NOT always necessary to call the NYPD. There will NOT be an on-site investigation. In some cases, like when the damage is more than $1,000, you are required to file a police report – but that can be done any time within ten days of the accident.
If all drivers were aware of this we would have fewer of the morning messes that plague our commutes.
The following is from the NYS Department of Motor Vehicle website:
•If the accident caused property damage only, then exchange information about your driver license, insurance, and registration with the involved drivers.
•If a parked vehicle or other property is damaged, or if a domestic animal is injured, you must locate the owner or contact the police.
•If the property damage of any person is $1,001 or more, all the involved drivers are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law to file a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident  (MV-104). File form MV-104 with the DMV no more than 10 days after the accident. The DMV can suspend your driver license if you fail to report an accident.
•If a person is injured or killed, you are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law to immediately notify the police. All the involved drivers and the police must file an accident report with the DMV. It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident that causes personal injury or death.
The accident appears on the records of all the involved drivers. An accident listed on your driver record does not indicate that you were at fault. The DMV does not try to determine fault in an accident.
Some folks have expressed trepidation about insurance implications and the possibility of insurance companies not being responsive if cars were moved. IN FACT, here’s what some insurance companies say on their websites about this topic:
- Progressive Insurance: If you're involved in a minor fender bender, such as another car rear-ending you or a car changing lanes into you, it's probably best to move your cars out of traffic after verifying no one is hurt. In fact, several states have signs along major highways that advise you to move your car off the road after a minor accident.
- Geico: At the Accident Scene be sure to:
- Move your car to a safe nearby location, but be careful not to leave the scene.
- Check to see if anyone is hurt and call 911 for medical assistance.
- Allstate: Immediately following a car accident, consider taking the following actions:
- Check yourself for injuries. If you're injured, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. If you're seriously injured, try not to move, and wait for emergency personnel.
- If you're not too hurt to move, check on the well-being of your passengers. If anyone's injured, get on the phone with emergency services or ask a bystander to call for help.
- Get to safety if you're able to, either on the side of the road or on a sidewalk. If your car is safe to drive and is causing a hazard where it is, pull it to the side of the road.Otherwise, leave it where it is and get yourself to safety.
- State Farm: Immediately After an Accident
- Take a deep breath and stay calm.
- Check for injuries; call an ambulance when in doubt.
- If accident is minor, move cars to a safe place, out of traffic.
- Turn on your vehicle's hazard lights and use cones, warning triangles or flares for safety.
- Call the police, even if the accident is minor.
- Notify your insurance agent immediately.