When you witness an accident, call 911 first

I am guilty of the groupthink that assumes “someone” had called 911.

On the way to work on March 12, I came upon a head-on collision on Kings Highway near Bowie Road in Westmoreland County. I saw one vehicle rolled over; one vehicle had hit a tree. There were about four vehicles stopped at the scene, and many people were standing around .

At this point, I made the mistake of assuming that “someone” had already called 911. A mistake that increased the emergency response time.

After waiting a few minutes for the vehicles ahead of me to negotiate the accident scene, I proceeded about two miles to Oak Grove, expecting to see emergency vehicles responding to the accident. When I passed the Oak Grove Fire Department and then a Westmoreland County Sheriff’s vehicle with no sign of an emergency response, I called the sheriff’s office.

The accident had not been reported.

I had to wait several minutes in line before continuing my trip to work, and the distance from the scene to where I reported the accident is about 2.5 miles, so the total delay in emergency response could have been as much as 10 minutes because those who passed the accident assumed “someone” had reported it.

When you witness an accident, although your first instinct is to assist the victims, take one minute and call 911 first. The best assistance you can provide is to get the victim assistance from first responders.

John Settlemyer


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