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What to share after a car crash

By Jay MacDonald ·
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Posted: 6 am ET

It's a curious ritual we naturally fall into when one motor vehicle makes inappropriate contact with another: Both drivers jump out, exchange driver's licenses and auto insurance cards, hastily scribble down names, addresses, maybe phone numbers, and wait for the cops to arrive.

But the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC, says the only information you should share with the other driver post-crash is your name, the make, model and year of your vehicle and the phone number of your auto insurance company.

"Sharing additional personal information, such as driver's license numbers and home addresses, puts consumers, their property and their safety at risk," according to NAIC. "In fact, sharing personal phone numbers is not necessary."

Last fall, NAIC conducted a survey to learn more about this outmoded post-accident protocol. Among its findings:
• Nearly 40 percent of us willingly hand over our driver's licenses.
• One in 4 of us will share our home address.
• Nearly 30 percent of us believe we're required to fork over our phone number.

What may have passed for common courtesy back when bellbottoms were in vogue can be risky behavior today. NAIC points out that many retailers routinely use driver's license information to verify identity over the phone. And although the practice is changing, some states still use your Social Security number as your default driver's license number.

Sharing where you live also puts you at risk, both of bodily harm if the crash was contentious as well as identity theft. "Sharing this information gives identity thieves the physical location of one's mail or garbage, which often is where they look for personal or financial information about their victims," NAIC says.

Even if there were no injuries or the other party objects, NAIC says always call the police after an accident, as filing a police report can speed the auto insurance claims process.

Want to make this post-accident process a no-brainer? Of course there's an app for that. The free WreckCheck app from NAIC for iPhone and Android walks you through the step-by-step process of what to share with whom and how to create your own accident report. Check it out at NAIC's Insure U site:

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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.

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