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How to handle a winter driving accident

Much has been made of the best practices for winter driving. The right maintenance and safe driving techniques can go a long way toward avoiding collisions or breakdowns, but sometimes accidents are unavoidable. 

Document the situation
Whenever you find yourself embroiled in an accident, one of the first things you should do is thoroughly examine the situation. Get out of the vehicle and check out the damage - as long as you are not in a dangerous or heavily trafficked area. If you are still in the middle of a road or trail, pull over to the side if possible and stay in the vehicle.

However, if you are in a setting clear of traffic and with good visibility, get out and take a look at your automobile. Be sure to take pictures of the scene as well as any damage to your vehicle or equipment. These may be important to show later on, especially if you're off-roading and need to move the car to a safer area before it can be checked by a professional. 

To properly document an accident, you'll need to have a functioning cellphone, camera or similar mobile device. Having a car charger can go a long way toward ensuring you are able to snap photos or even take video of the damage. It may also be a good idea to brush up on your insurance coverage before getting behind the wheel. This can give you a better idea of what to look at when you're on the scene, as well as what steps to take. 

Don't jump to conclusions 
Accidents, breakdowns and collisions can be intensely stressful. While it may be easy to lose control, it is important to try to keep a level head and remain calm. Any accident that involves another driver needs to be handled carefully, and it does no good to discuss blame or point fingers before the arrival of the police or insurance inspector. Be sure to exchange contact information and basic insurance info with the owner of the other vehicle, and alert all of the proper authorities as soon as possible. Getting a police report filed, if necessary, will need to be done quickly, and the sooner you can file an insurance claim the better. 

Take preventative measures
As previously stated, staying on top of vehicle maintenance and driving safely are two of the best ways to steer clear of problems on the roads or trails. However, there won't always be a clear-cut solution that can help you avoid problems, and if that's the case, you'll want to have the right gear that will keep a situation manageable. 

To start, you should make sure you have the right equipment for a temporary fix of a vehicle. This includes a spare tire, tool kit, recovery straps and any other items you may find necessary for your given type of off-road driving. It is also a good idea to have some kind of reflective vest or tape, as this can make you and your automobile more visible in any space, alerting other drivers to your location. 

Because it is the winter season, you may also want to ensure you have some accessories that are equipped to handle the cold or possible inclement weather. Gravel or salt is a good idea if you're concerned about traction, especially in situations where you may be rock crawling or handling steep inclines. Here's a tip: If you're crunched for time or money, consider pet litter instead. It has the same consistency as road gravel and can typically be found at more convenient locations.