The Bystander Effect: What Keeps People From Helping at Car Accidents

Ru Chen
· 3 min read
Car accidents
range from catastrophic multi-vehicular crashes to small scrapes when parallel parking.
For most accidents, there exists a time frame during which a
Good Samaritan can stop to help
. But more often than not, people don’t stop when they see something bad happening.
It’s usually not malicious. The bystander effect tends to dig its claws into, well, bystanders—preventing them from helping.
What would you do if you witnessed a car accident?

The psychology behind witnessing car accidents

The bystander effect is defined by
Psychology Today
as "when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation, against a bully, or during an assault or other crime."
In fact, the more people who crowd around and witness a blatant crime happening, the more likely the culprit will get away with it.
The Guardian
talks about how the bystander effect has even enabled murderers to kill. Does the bystander effect really affect the car world so much?
It might sound ridiculous, but it is real and very powerful. And it occurs all the time around car accidents.
Imagine you see an infant in a hot car.
You know it’s probably burning up and heat stroke is a risk—but everyone walking nearby is ignoring it. That’s why you, perhaps subconsciously, just dismiss it as a problem too.
"If it’s really a problem, someone else will help."
Factors like diffusion of responsibility and worries of legal repercussions all lead to one thing: bystanders frozen, unable to help.
That’s why it’s very fortunate whenever a Good Samaritan can manage to beat that bystander apathy and give a helping hand.
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What to do if you witness a car accident

Maybe a car’s on fire, maybe someone is injured and unable to dial 911, maybe there’s a baby stuck in a hot car. Maybe one of the car crash victims is you or somebody you know.
If you’re a witness who happens to be driving by, try to think of the bystander effect.
So many people walking past the scene don’t realize the bystander effect is creating mass inaction. If you can break it—safely—call for emergency services. An earlier ambulance can make all the difference.
Also, after a car accident happens, even if there’s no visible injury, it’s important to get a doctor’s checkup.
Smoke inhalation, burn infections, internal bleeding, and more issues might not appear to be obvious.
However, they can lead to possibly lethal or long lasting problems.
Mentally, car accidents are also terrible. Trauma can come from injury, disabilities, death, or even just the lucky near-hit you experience.
Self-compassion and time are ways to deal with being involved in a car crash (or even just witnessing one).
If you’ve been having side-effects after a car accident, it can be beneficial to talk to someone.

How to protect you, your family, and your vehicle

A car crash can also be a financial disaster. If you’re worried about whether you have enough coverage,
can help.
Jerry knows that car insurance can be a pain. Especially if you’re worried about other things like health, injuries, and liability? Insurance is a huge headache.
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