Steer Clear of Blame, Look for Eyewitness

I want to tell you about an accident that happened to a friend several weeks ago. It shows that sometimes you have to protect yourself after a crash.

My friend was driving on Prospekt Mira at 5 p.m. from the city center. At the intersection of Prospekt Mira and Novomoskovskaya Ulitsa, a car stopped unexpectedly in front of him. He slammed on his brakes and stopped short of the vehicle. Simultaneously, though, he was rammed from behind by a car that was moving very fast and following too closely. My friend's car was shoved forward and hit the car in front of him.

After a quick inspection of the first car's rear end, my friend discovered it wasn't damaged. The driver had no complaints and drove away.

My friend went to the back. This driver was a young fellow about 25, a real New Russian in a red VAZ 2109, with a bald head and a gold chain around his neck. An inspection found serious damage on the body of my friend's car. When the New Russian realized this, he jumped into his car and roared away.

My friend followed and was able to catch up when the red car got stuck in a traffic jam on the city's outskirts. He took down the license plate number, went to find a police officer, explained the situation and asked for help. The police officer said he didn't have authority to fill out an accident report and told my friend to call the police station.

My friend called the station from a pay phone, made an official complaint about the accident, gave the station officer the license number of the red car and received official permission to get an accident report from the sergeant.

The sergeant signed the papers but told my friend that nobody would stop the driver in the red car despite the official complaint.

Five days later, my friend went to the police station to see if there was any news. In the meantime, he had obtained the New Russian's name and address in less than an hour through some journalist friends.

At the police station, he learned that nobody was looking for the red car. When he told an officer that he had made a personal investigation and knew the name of the person who had fled the accident scene -- a serious violation in Russian law -- he received a strange proposal.

The officer said he was ready to rewrite the accident report, thus threatening to make my friend guilty of a traffic violation.

So he now has to pay for car repairs out of his own pocket.

There are two important lessons in this accident. First, always look for eyewitnesses and, second, remember that the police can easily make you a guilty party.