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The key to understanding how a car crash happened is to gather relevant evidence. That includes documenting things like road conditions at the time, what the involved vehicles were doing, posted speed limits and the presence of traffic signals.

The Washington State Patrol does this for motor vehicle accidents with a standard collision report document. Essentially, it serves as a guide, laying out a series of checklists where the responding trooper can make note of different factors.

Authorities updated this collision report for 2020. The biggest change is the addition of new contributing factors. This means, if you’re involved in a crash, you will be under additional scrutiny as the responding trooper investigates whether you behaved in certain ways.

New contributing circumstances

One of the largest sections on this collision report is called “contributing circumstances.” It is a list of a few dozen behaviors (by drivers, pedestrians or cyclists) the trooper believes may have contributed to the wreck. Many carried over from 2019 to 2020, including whether anyone was speeding, signs a driver was asleep or fatigued, and evidence of distracted driving.

However, there are also eight brand new behaviors. By knowing what is on the list, you know the things a law enforcement officer might be looking for when responding to a crash. The eight new contributing circumstances are:

  • Lost in thought or daydreaming
  • Distracted by someone else in the vehicle
  • Distracted by adjusting vehicle controls
  • Apparently emotional (such as depressed, angry, disturbed, etc.)
  • Physically impaired
  • Racing
  • Operating recklessly or aggressively
  • Overcorrecting or oversteering

Other changes to the collision report

The state patrol made a few other tweaks to the collision report form for 2020. Some similar contributing factors on the older form were grouped together and are now just one entry. There is one new item under the “vehicle action” section: “Negotiating a curve.” There is also a new box regarding impairment.

The moments following a car crash can be stressful and confusing. Knowing ahead of time what questions a responding trooper might pose to you can help lessen the fear that often comes in these situations.