Walking away from a car accident is a blessing, but the aftermath can involve significant mental trauma for accident victims. If you or someone you know has been in a car accident, you can employ a few strategies to help overcome the fear and hesitation of getting back behind the wheel. Recovery comes in many shapes and sizes, from selling your car after the accident to seeking professional help or financial assistance. It’s important to take steps that will help you heal and get back in the driver's seat safely.
Take extra precautions on the road as the weather warms
The pandemic didn’t create major car accidents, but it may compound the risk of significant car accidents this year. While 2020 saw a drop in car accidents overall, fatal distracted driving accidents increased in several states, a rise that some experts say can be attributed to the pandemic. With Americans eagerly putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror as vacation season starts, the risks of an accident — and subsequent recovery strategies — may be worth considering.
If you find yourself wondering what to do after an accident, consider these four strategies.
1. You may want to sell your car to help remove the memory trigger
Human memory and emotion are distinctly tied to personal items. Numerous studies have examined the impact of object memory on how we feel about ourselves, our lives, our history and other people. Objects tied to trauma can also be a source of emotional pain and could be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) triggers. The senses tied to trauma-related objects (sight, sound, smell, and touch, in particular) can trigger strong emotional responses.
Healing from car accident trauma for some individuals may start with getting rid of the vehicle that was in the accident. If the accident was recent and the car has not been repaired, it may be financially advantageous for you to sell the vehicle for scrap. If your car is still in working condition or if you had it repaired following your accident, you may want to consider using it as a trade-in for a newer car or donating it to charity.
2. Shop around as a hedge against increasing insurance rates
The last thing you need following a traumatic car accident is to see your insurance rates increase and to worry about paying your premiums. Increases more commonly occur when you’re found to be at fault for the accident but can still occur in no-fault accidents. If the other driver was uninsured or if you failed to obtain the other driver’s insurance information, your provider will handle the costs and may pass those costs on to you.
If you believe a rate increase will occur after an accident, it may be time to explore alternative coverage options. That said, your record will follow you. If you were at fault, your new insurance provider is going to consider the accident when calculating your potential rates. However, shopping for a new provider may help you lower or avoid rate increases for no-fault accidents that result in a rate increase with your existing car insurance provider, as you will still be shown as not at fault on your driving record.
3. Take a safe driving class
A route to recovery from accident-related trauma may include changing your driving habits. If you were at fault for the accident, it may help to give yourself more structure and incentive for safer driving. Taking a defensive driving class could help you get a discount on your premiums.
Some insurance providers also offer discounts for using safe driving techniques, such as keeping within the speed limit. Many well-known providers offer such programs and use varying methods to record your driving data to determine discounts. The extra incentive to drive better can reduce your stress behind the wheel while also working as a hedge against future accidents caused by preventable behaviors.
4. Schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist
There’s nothing shameful about seeking professional help to heal from trauma. Car accidents are a very real source of emotional trauma and carry a very real threat of death, meaning your emotional stress related to your accident is very real. Given this, you may want to seek help from a psychiatrist or therapist who specializes in helping trauma victims recover.
Professional therapists will not see your trauma as any less legitimate than trauma from any other type of event. Instead, they’ll engage you with gentleness and help you establish coping skills and recovery strategies.
As the world opens back up for business, a road trip may help relieve post-pandemic stress for some people. However, the memory of a car accident and a fear of driving could complicate the prospect of going on a road trip. Employing a few recovery strategies could help you get back behind the wheel once again to enjoy one of America’s favorite pastimes.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet
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