Being involved in an auto accident is stressful enough. But being targeted by a group of angry people intent on administering vigilante justice can be absolutely terrifying.
Can this really happen to you? It seems unthinkable in today’s civilized society that an irate mob could form spontaneously and endanger your physical well-being simply because you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it happened earlier this month in Springfield on the evening of July 9.
A police officer pulled over a 16-year old driver for running a red light in connection with an auto accident. Upset that he was being ticketed, the teen called some friends on his cell phone. Then several individuals arrived on the scene and attacked the police officer. Fortunately, the officer was not seriously injured and was able to request backup. Four individuals were arrested in connection with the mob attack.
So if a police officer is not safe from mob attacks, it stands to reason that ordinary civilians can be put in danger as well. Chicagoans may remember the deadly mob attack in the summer of 2002. A van crashed into a front porch of a home on the city’s South Side one evening. Three women sitting on the porch were injured. However, a group of angry residents pulled the two occupants out of the van and beat them to death with stones, sticks, and a large brick.
This situation is almost too horrifying to think about. However, if you are involved in an accident where bystanders’ emotions are running high, the ingredients exist for tensions to boil over – and that could put you in grave danger.
Here are some suggestions to help you avoid and/or survive a mob attack after an auto accident.
Be aware of the situation. If the accident occurs in a residential neighborhood, entertainment district, or any other location where lots of people are around, the chances of a mob event occurring are much higher than a wreck on an empty road or a freeway. Watch for warning signs like people suddenly making calls on their cell phones and/or yelling at you or talking angrily about the accident.
Stay calm. Granted, this is easier said than done – but it could mean the difference between the situation resolving itself peacefully or turning violent. Responding to accusations by raising your voice, lashing out, or brandishing a weapon will only inflame tensions. Concentrate on the accident itself and try to remedy the situation.
Focus attention elsewhere. If someone is hurt, tend to their needs and ask bystanders for help in calling an ambulance, getting bandages, or consoling the victim. If a vehicle is stalled in traffic, request assistance in pushing or guiding it out of the road. If bystanders are busy helping out accident victims, they’re less likely to lose their temper and focus their ire on you.
Call 911. If a person is injured, you should do this anyway. But at any moment, if you feel physically threatened or sense that the situation is becoming dangerous, call 911 and request police assistance (even if you have already called once for an ambulance). Speak calmly and quietly into your phone, and be sure to mention your fears that a mob may be forming at the accident site.
Lock yourself in your vehicle. If you think you are in danger, get yourself and all of your passengers into your vehicle, lock all of the doors, and roll up the windows. This will you allow you to speak on the phone with emergency personnel without being assaulted. Stay there until first responders arrive, because leaving the scene of an accident is illegal.
Make noise. If a group begins to gather around your vehicle, sound the horn repeatedly. If your vehicle has an audible alarm system, activate it. This will get the attention of people who are far away from the accident scene – and who are much less likely to be caught up in the emotions of those around your vehicle. These people can also call for help – or perhaps even come to your aid directly. And the mob may even disperse if the individuals do not wish to attract attention to themselves.
Worst case scenario
Though rare, full scale mob attacks on motorists can occur after an auto accident. People may slap or push the vehicle’s exterior, rock the vehicle back and forth, throw debris at the vehicle, or break headlights or hood ornaments. Sometimes, the mayhem will not progress any further before help arrives. However, some mob attacks may turn even more violent if the attackers decide to go after the vehicle’s occupants.
If there comes a point to when you or your passengers are in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm (i.e., when attackers break windshields or windows, throw heavy objects at the vehicle, discharge firearms at the vehicle, or attempt to set the vehicle on fire), then you must choose your safety over a hit-and-run citation and get away from the area.
1. Take the most direct route away from the mob (doing your best not to strike any pedestrians if you can help it) and drive away quickly but safely. 2. Drive to a place far enough away that you are out of danger and then pull into a public place. 3. Then immediately dial 911 and tell the dispatcher exactly what happened. Not only will this alert police officers to your new location, it will create an audio recording explaining why you drove away from the crash site. This recording will help you fight any future charges of fleeing the scene of an accident. If possible, stay on the line with the dispatcher until police arrive.4. If they haven’t already noticed your damaged vehicle, get the attention of bystanders by honking your horn or sounding your alarm. If anyone approaches the vehicle in a friendly and non-threatening manner, tell them what happened and ask them for help if you need it (especially if you or your occupants are injured).5. Stay at that location until police officers arrive. Then explain to them exactly what happened starting from the initial accident (the dispatcher may not have filled them in on your plight). Then follow their instructions – even if it means going with them to the police station.6. Some time after the incident, enlist the services of an attorney to not only argue on behalf of your position, but also to help find those responsible for damaging your vehicle and/or causing injuries to you or your passengers.
Mob attacks happen very infrequently – but they do happen. The key is to recognize the signs of discord, remain calm and focused, and take defensive measures only if necessary.