Periodic reports in the media have highlighted the high accident statistics in South Africa and, along with these, reports of extortion and unscrupulous practices compromising motorists involved in road accidents. This has prompted the AA to examine the situation and advise our Members on what to avoid and what to do if you are unfortunate enough to have a vehicle collision.
The article contains valuable information relating to your rights at an accident scene and advice to help you in an emergency situation of this kind, including:
Approximately 14 500 people died in road accidents last year. Take a look at these Stats, facts and figures so you know what SA motorists are up against. 'While no accurate accident data exists, it is estimated that of the 900 000 accidents reported to the South African Police Service in 2008, at least 150 000 people were injured - of these about 60 000 required hospitalisation,' says the AASA. 'Approximately 14 500 people died in road accidents last year. The estimated cost of all vehicle crashes to the South African economy in 2008 was R56 billion, representing 3.5% of GDP. By comparison, the cost of crashes in developed countries at 1% of GDP is considerably lower,' he adds.
Here are some more sobering facts:
In a crash where a person becomes either a quadriplegic or paraplegic, the direct hospitalisation and rehabilitation costs in the first few months will easily exceed R1 million. That same person will require a further minimum of R500 000 every year just to maintain a semblance of quality of life. Every day 22 people sustain serious injuries in crashes that leave them permanently disabled.
Almost 85% of crashes are as a result of human error (or more accurately, by the road user breaking a traffic law). For example, a pedestrian crossing a busy motorway, a driver overtaking on a solid barrier line or driving under the influence of alcohol.
Ten percent of crashes can be attributed to poor road conditions. This is because many of the provincial roads in South Africa have deteriorated over the past few years. According to the AA Road Maintenance and Funding Report (2008), most provincial roads deteriorated from a 'good to fair' condition to a 'poor or very poor' state over the past 10 years. The maintenance backlog for our roads has been conservatively estimated at R100 billion.
In developed countries where roads are in good condition, less than five percent of crashes are caused by poor road conditions.
It is believed that about five percent of all crashes are because of unroadworthy vehicles and mechanical failure, but in the absence of credible data this percentage could be higher. The average age of cars on South African roads is 11 years while the average age of Accident Towing trucks and buses is 20 years! The absence of periodic vehicle testing makes these older vehicles more likely to be unroadworthy and perhaps more susceptible to critical safety component failure being the cause of a crash.
One of the biggest problems in South Africa (where more and more people are buying cars), is the competency of motorists. There are almost eight million licensed drivers, most of whom have had very little training. Inexperience certainly plays a major role in the number of crashes recorded each year.
The AA is actively involved in numerous road safety initiatives, including the International Make Roads Safe: Decade of Road Safety campaign, which aims to reduce global road fatalities by 50% over the next decade. The SA government is a signatory to the campaign and we will be working with government in our efforts to attain the 50% goal by advocating changes to relevant legislation and looking for solutions to known problems in road safety. Some of the legislative amendments we are lobbying to change are the seat-belt laws regarding children, compulsory daytime running lights for public and commercial vehicles and reducing the blood-alcohol limit to zero.
Because towing rates are not regulated in South Africa, motorists should be aware of the following:
While it is true that there are many unprincipled tow truck drivers out there, many towing operators do still offer a valuable service. To avoid unreliable operators, be aware of some of the ways in which you can be fooled at a time when you are angry, disoriented and not thinking clearly.
You can avoid a bad situation by taking note of the following:
We will arrange the accident tow for you. If you are insured, the AA call centre will connect you with your insurer in a three-way conference call (we will stay on the line) so that you get the correct authorisation for your tow, to ensure that you comply with your insurer's requirements and that your costs are covered by your insurer.
You are not obliged to accept a tow from any towing company that arrives on the scene. The traffic officers attending the scene of an accident have a duty to keep traffic flowing as best they can under the circumstances, but are not permitted to dictate to you which towing service you should use.
The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 and the National Road Traffic Regulations published in Government Notice No R.225 of 17 March 2000 stipulate the regulatory requirements for the towing of vehicles. The act states that '...no person shall remove a vehicle involved in an accident, except for the purpose of sufficiently allowing the passage of traffic, without the permission of the owner, driver or operator of such vehicle or a person who may lawfully take possession of such vehicle.'
This Act empowers a traffic officer to have your car moved off the road if it is obstructing the flow of traffic. Be careful to select the correct service provider as, once hooked, there have been reported cases where the tow truck driver then refuses to unhitch the vehicle and when denied the onward tow, demands the full price of an accident tow for the five metres the car was moved to the side of the road.
Traffic officers have a duty to keep traffic flowing, but are not permitted to dictate to you which towing service you should use.
The AA issues a 'Do Not Tow' decal which should be displayed on your windscreen or driver's window. It carries the AA Emergency Call Centre number to be dialled in the event of an accident. It is also an expression of your wishes when you may be unable to communicate to the people attending to the accident. It states that your vehicle may not be towed unless the tow is arranged by the AA. Ask for one at our Travel Experience stores (see page 98 for details) or call 083 THE AA (083 843 22).
The AA has contracted with a number of reputable towing contractors around the country. The relationship and service rendered to AA Members is governed by a service level agreement and a code of conduct. Towing rates are agreed and where towing is free to the AA Member, the AA is billed directly. When the costs for towing are for the Member's account, the AA can monitor the fees to ensure fairness.
The AA has all the knowledge, experience and, most importantly, the credibility to become your trusted ally when an accident occurs. Through its 24-hour call centre, the AA can arrange everything for you, including:
Obtain all the information you can to complete a concise collision report if required by your insurer or for legal purposes. Include:
Ask your telephonic adviser or our patrolman to help you fill out our Recording of Vital Accident Information form. It's vital to get it on record...
After the accident has happened, stop your vehicle immediately and ascertain if anyone is injured. If injuries have occurred, call emergency services immediately and try to make the injured person(s) comfortable. Get the professionals to the scene as soon as possible to increase any injured person's chances of survival. Provide accurate details of the location and type of emergency. Most importantly, if anyone is seriously injured do not move them - unless their lives are at risk, through fire or further injury from other road users. Your best intentions may aggravate the injuries.
AA Mayday Emergency Medical Service
All AA Members have access to the AA Mayday emergency medical service 24 hours a day, just by being an AA Member. That's right - our 24-hour AA Mayday emergency medical service is there for you. And not only for you - your spouse and children under the age of 26 are covered too.
Here's what AA Mayday offers you in the event of an accident: