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Tips Help Wiser Drivers Wise Up

FT. COLLINS, Colo., March 14 -- With spring arriving, longer days and better weather mean you may be spending more time in your car doing things you've put off all winter. Unfortunately, one in eight drivers is involved in an accident each year.

While you may not be able to avoid a collision, you can steer clear of mistakes by being better prepared. According to the Consumer Protection Association of America, anticipating how to handle an accident can affect everything from protecting yourself and your passengers to ensuring you won't be without a car while yours is in the repair shop.

``In addition to unintentionally jeopardizing personal safety at the scene, drivers are often unprepared for the additional aggravation and unexpected expenses they are likely to incur after an accident,'' said Dr. Ray Bruce, CPAA president, whose suggestions, also at, include:

-- When there is an accident with no serious injuries, cars should be moved to the side of the road, away from oncoming traffic. If cars cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should stay in cars with seat belts fastened until help arrives.

-- Even if no police report is filed, you should still fill out a state vehicle accident report form, available at any police station. It can simplify the insurance claims process.

-- Don't wait to find out until after an accident that your policy doesn't automatically cover costs for towing or a replacement rental car. For only $1 or $2 a month, you can add coverage for rental car reimbursement, which provides a rental car for little or no money while your car is in the repair shop or if it is stolen.

-- In addition to exchanging names and phone numbers at the scene, record all information on the other driver's insurance card, license plate number, and names of all occupants in the other vehicle.

-- Carry a cell phone, pens and paper for taking notes, a disposable camera to take photos at the scene, and card with medical information for conditions requiring special attention. A free accident information form is at .

Based in Fort Collins, Colo., the Consumer Protection Association of America ( ) provides information resources, educational materials, and conflict resolution services to consumers and businesses