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Suddenly... you're in a car wreck

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is the first of a three-part series on driving safety concerning what to do if you're in a wreck, what to do if you see a wreck and what security forces patrolmen do to respond to a wreck.

It's a typical winter morning in Rheinland-Pfalz, and you're driving through snowfall on your way to work at Spangdahlem.

You pass by a few cars and wonder which country their license plates are from. "'LT?' I haven't seen that one before..." you say to yourself while coming up with names but stopping after realizing that "Larry Town" is not a real country.

You then hear that song on the radio that gets played ad nauseam because a few people and powerful music executives find it popular. "Honestly, how does she make her money?" you ask yourself, while realizing you have all her albums and her last single is the first song on your most played playlist.

You move your hand from the steering wheel to mercifully adjust your radio station while simultaneously realizing "LT" is the country code for "Lithuania" to your surprise.

Suddenly....

... in the seemingly blink-of-an-eye moment, you soon find yourself smashed alongside another car on the side of the road.

You don't remember the details of how or what previously happened. It's almost been a year since you completed your license training, and you're a little fuzzy on the details of what to do.

All you know is this: what you immediately do next could save your life.

What WILL you do?

The above scenario may be as fake as "Larry Town," but the severity of the risks and danger is real. It may have been a while since you've taken your USAREUR driving course test, but refreshing on the necessary steps during a car crash can make the difference between life and not having life any more.

Five steps if you've been in a car wreck

1.) SAFETY: Ensure that you and your company are safe.

"If you're in a wreck, first make sure you're OK," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Wiese, security forces patrolman and military working dog handler for 52nd Security Forces Squadron and Nampa, Idaho, native. "If there are injuries, let security forces know when you call so they can notify an ambulance to arrive on the scene, too."

Additionally, use your first aid kit as needed, but be very careful when observing/tending to broken bones, open wounds or neck injuries.

2.) WARNING: If possible, post the mandatory emergency equipment triangles 100 meters behind your car so as to alert drivers of your situation.

3.) CONTACT: Call Security Forces at 0656561-6666.

"As soon as you can, let the dispatcher at the desk know the best description of where you're at that you can," Wiese said. "Standby and security forces will arrive. We do have off-base patrols, so if it is off-base, we will try to get there very quick."

If you have a car accident on the Autobahn and do not have access to a cell phone, emergency phones are posted along the road at 1.2-mile intervals. No matter your home language, operators will be able to pinpoint your location and alert local emergency services.

4.) DISTANCE: Be sure to stand a safe distance from further passing cars while keeping yourself out of danger.

"Please don't stand out in the road," Wiese said. "Try to stay off to the side away from traffic while waiting for us to get there."

5.) PAPERWORK: Have your military ID, car registration and insurance forms readily available when police arrive.

However, there's a severe level of paperwork that could occur as a result of a car accident--and whether it's issued to you largely depends on what you do immediately after the wreck occurs.

The consequences of not calling or delaying a call until hours or days after the accident may result in an Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice - General Punishment.

For eample, if the wreck occurs outside the immediate area of Spangdahlem and you don't notify Security Forces, it will qualify as a "Failure to Report" and you will lose your license for 30 days.

Or if there isn't another car and your actions result in property damage and you do not call Security Forces -- it will qualify as fleeing the scene and you will lose your license for up to 180 days.

Or if you bump into another person's car and leave a note... you still need to notify Security Forces.

Above all, Wiese emphasized how first calling Security Forces can not only spare you from a potential headache but they can also save your life.

"The main thing is to contact emergency authorities," Wiese said.