Accident scene 101: a beginnerís guide

September 2015

Accidents are every motoristís worst nightmare. Countless crashes occur on South African roads daily. High traffic volumes in urban areas and hazards such as potholes and un-roadworthy vehicles, mean the chances of being involved in an accident are higher.

Avoiding crashes comes down to many factors: driver alertness being the most important. In the unfortunate event that you are involved in an accident we have put together a beginnerís guide to assist you through the doís and doníts. 

According to Section 61 of the National Road Traffic Act (93 of 1996), a driver is obliged to do the following when involved in an accident: 

  1. Stop the vehicle immediately 
  2. Determine if any of your passengers are injured 
  3. Get medical assistance for any injuries 
  4. Assess the damage 
  5. Give your details to anyone on the scene who has grounds for needing them 
  6. Report the accident at a police station within 24 hours of the incident 
  7. Do not consume any drugs or alcohol after the accident unless prescribed by a doctor 

Letís examine each of these points: ∑ 

  • Stop the vehicle immediately. It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident, so if the crash hasnít forced you to come to a stop, stop immediately and as safely an area as possible.
  • Remain calm and determine whether you or any of your passengers are injured. If any injuries are severe, do not try and remove anyone from the vehicle, leave this to the paramedics.

Try and make the accident scene as safe as possible. Put on your hazard lights and set up a warning triangle at least 100m from the scene of the accident. If you are in a particularly dangerous spot, move away from the wreckage quickly to avoid further accidents.

  • Call for help as soon as you can. The type of assistance needed will depend on the severity of the crash, but you should always call the police. If there are injuries, call an ambulance and paramedics immediately.
  • Call your insurance provider and report the accident. They will advise which towing service to use, if the vehicle needs to be towed, as well as what you need for a claim; for example, where the vehicle should be taken for inspection.

Be careful of using a towing service that is not approved by your insurer, because you will be liable the cost of the service.

  • Assess the damage and take photos of all vehicles involved as well as the scene of the accident and surroundings. You will need to reconstruct the accident scene at the police station and for your insurance provider. Make sure you know the street names, the position of the vehicles involved, and other details like the date and time. These details will also become important if it becomes a legal matter.
  • Exchange details with the other parties involved. Make sure you get all the other partyís details including their phone, ID number and driverís licence details, vehicle details and address as well as vehicle ownership details if they are not the owner of the vehicle.

Give the same information to the other party or parties, as you will both need them for the accident reports and insurance claims. If need be, take photos of their ID book and/or driverís licence. Verify their cellphone number on the spot by giving them a call. Speak to any witnesses and also get their details.

  • Do not admit liability. Regardless of whose fault the accident was, do not admit to anything. Admission of guilt can become a legal issue.
  • You will need to report the accident at a police station within 24 hours of the incident, and you will need to do this in the vicinity of the crash. Take your driverís license, ID book and the other partyís details with you, as you will need to note all of this information.

NB: you will not be able to proceed with an insurance claim without a case number from the police. In case you need it, you should also make a copy of the completed report after you have signed it; it will be difficult and costly to try and get a copy once it enters the system.

  • It is extremely important that you donít consume narcotics or alcohol after the accident. You may be tested and even if you did not consumer either before the crash but after, you will test positive and this will reflect against you.
  • Do not ignore your injuries. Even if itís a small bumper bashing, you should go to hospital for a check-up. Injuries like internal bruising and whiplash might only become apparent a few days or weeks after a crash. 

Tip: Keep the 7 steps listed in this blog article in a book or piece of paper in your car.

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