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Sammy Seagull Police Officer

University Police

2013 Edition, January Issue

Fender Benders - Are you prepared?
by Sgt. Dan Van Meter

    You're in the mall shopping during the busy holiday season. You walk out to your vehicle to leave. You put your key in the door to get in when all of a sudden you notice a dent in your fender. Not only is there a dent, but a big blue paint scrape on your white paint job. How would you feel? Would you know what to do? There's no note, no witnesses, now what? Have you been a victim of a hit and run? More important, have you ever been the culprit of a hit and run?

    According to the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the bulk of auto collisions are low-speed, fender benders that occur in parking lots. For the college student who lives on campus, keep in mind that even though you reside on campus, you must park in one big parking lot, a prime place to be the victim of a hit and run.

    Some basic tips when driving or parking in parking lots:

  • Watch for cars cutting diagonally across lots
  • Use your signals
  • Watch for speeding motorists who speed through the lanes
  • Don't park between spots
  • Watch for cars backing out of spaces
  • Always look ahead for cars pulling out.

    Even safe driving can't always prevent you from becoming a victim of a fender bender. Most fender benders are minor and can reported to your insurance agent or worked out among the parties involved; however, what if you're the victim of a hit and run?

    Why do hit and runs occur? This could be for many reasons. The culprit of a hit and run could be driving while intoxicated, operating without a license, they may have no insurance, the car may be stolen or contain stolen goods, or the driver might possibly be wanted for other crimes. In most cases, people flee the scene of an accident because they are scared and/or embarrassed. If you are the victim of a hit and run, consider the following:

  • Contact the police immediately
  • Attempt to locate any witnesses
  • If a suspect car is seen, attempt to provide the police the vehicle make, model, color, tag number and state, any special characteristics of the vehicle, description of occupants in the vehicle, location of damage on suspect vehicle, and possible direction of travel of the suspect vehicle.

    Many people, who drive away from the scene of an accident, don't realize the penalties that they could face if they are caught. The driver of a vehicle who is involved in an accident and flees the scene is a hit and run offender. If you are involved in a traffic accident resulting in property damage and/or personal injury or death, you are required by state law to report the matter. If you are involved in an accident resulting in personal injury and/or death, state law requires all parties involved to remain at the scene and report the matter immediately to the police. If occupants must leave the scene in order to contact the police, then they must immediately return to the scene of the accident.

    If you are involved in a fender bender or in an accident resulting only in property damage, law requires the following:

  • Make an attempt to locate the owner/driver if the vehicle is unattended.
  • Provide owner/driver your name, address, vehicle registration info, and insurance information.
  • If the owner/driver cannot be located or contacted, you are required at a minimum, to leave a written notice on the vehicle(s) of the information listed above in no.2.
  • As a reminder, state law requires that all drivers involved in a traffic accident, must upon request, provide law enforcement personnel with all proper vehicle insurance information.


    Leaving the scene or not reporting your involvement in a vehicle accident is a serious offense. Many people do not realize the penalties that could occur in found guilty of fleeing or leaving the scene of an accident that they are involved in.

  • If you are involved in an accident resulting in personal injury and/or death, and fail to remain at he scene, you could lose your license and possibly face criminal prosecution.
  • If you fail to provide proper insurance information at the scene of an accident, you could be fined up to $120.00
  • If you fail to provide or leave written ID information and vehicle information on/in an unattended damaged vehicle, you could receive up to 8 points on your license and possibly face criminal charges.
  • If you fail to remain at the scene or fail to report your involvement in an accident with an unattended and/or parked vehicle, you could receive up to 8 points on your license and possibly face criminal prosecution.

After the accident

    When reporting your accidents and claims to your insurance agent, they may need a report by the investigating police agency; however, since each insurance agency is different, check with your own to determine what they require. Make sure that you're insurance is up to date and that you carry all valid insurance cards with you and in your vehicle. Some insurance companies now allow claims to be reported online. Check with your insurance company to determine the availability. If you are a victim or have some involvement in an accident involving personal injury and a police agency was not involved, state law requires that you report the incident to MVA within 15 days after the accident.

    If you are involved in a fender bender, do the right thing and report the incident to the police. If the vehicle is unattended, leave a message for the owner on his or her windshield. Don't be embarrassed to report an accident that you are involved in. It is always best to deal with the situation than to deal with the consequences of the aftermath. Be careful and drive safe.

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