How to survive 6 motoring emergencies

From an accident to a late-night hijacking, all motorists must be prepared to handle emergencies.  

Traffic accident

Being involved in an accident can be a very traumatic experience. Here are the steps you should follow. 

First and foremost, if you are not injured and are out of harm’s way, you should determine if anyone has been hurt and contact emergency services.

You should then obtain as much information as possible from the other party involved in the accident. This includes their name, address, contact details, insurance details, identity number and driver’s licence number, as well as the make, model and registration number of their vehicle. Also remember that you are required to supply your particulars to them.

The next step would be to record the location of the accident, as well as the damage to the vehicles involved. The camera on your cell phone is a very valuable tool with which to gather photographic evidence.

If your vehicle has to be towed, contact your insurer for advice on which towing service to use. Establish the credentials and rates of any towing service that arrives on the scene before surrendering your vehicle to them and never sign a blank towing permission form.

By law you are required to report the accident to the police within 24 hours of it happening so be sure to do that as soon as possible.

AA Accident Assist

Accidents are stressful and we know it is difficult to think clearly and record all the information required for your insurance claim when dealing with an emergency. AA Accident Assist will guide you through the process, including recording information and third-party details and keeping photos, videos and voice recordings ready for your insurance claim.

Quick tips

  • Stay calm
  • Immediately stop your vehicle
  • Check for injuries
  • Call emergency services if necessary
  • Get the particulars of the other party involved
  • Record the location of the accident
  • Report to police within 24 hours

Pedestrian accident

According to statistics, over 5 000 pedestrians were killed on South African roads in 2016. It is the duty of each motorist to be on the lookout for pedestrians at all times.

If, however, you do hit a pedestrian with your vehicle you need to act responsibly and according to the rules of the law. Although it is true that criminals fake pedestrian accidents in order to prey on motorists and that stopping could put you at risk, simply driving off could constitute a hit-and-run and land you in hot water.

You are required to establish whether the pedestrian you hit has been injured or killed and to render assistance if possible. You are also expected to call the police and emergency services right away.

If you feel that you will be placing yourself in a potentially dangerous situation by stopping and getting out of your vehicle, it would be acceptable for you to move away from the scene of the accident before you call for help. This does not, however, mean driving home and then calling the police and emergency services!

You will also be required to provide a full description of what happened and where, so make notes and – if possible – take photographs at the scene as supporting evidence.

Quick tips

  • Stop as soon as possible
  • Check for injuries
  • Contact emergency services
  • Record details of the incident
  • Report the incident to the police within 24 hours

Breaking down at night

A vehicle breakdown is frustrating enough during the day. When it happens at night the situation becomes more challenging – and potentially dangerous.

The first thing to do is to activate your vehicle’s hazard lights. This will let other road users know that you are experiencing a problem and that your vehicle might be moving slowly or not at all. The next step is to move as far off the road as possible.

The breakdown might be caused by something as simple as a flat tyre, in which case you can fix it yourself. If, however, the problem is more serious, you will have to call for help. In such cases it is important to know exactly where you are so that your breakdown service or roadside assistance service provider can find you. Thankfully, through modern technology, this could be as simple as sending your location via WhatsApp and, if your vehicle is fitted with a tracking device, the tracking company will also be able to pinpoint your exact location.

If you are subscribed to the AA Rescue Service App you simply need to press the Rescue Me button and an instant alert, along with your location details, will be sent to the call centre. They will call you back to ensure you’re OK and to establish what kind of assistance you require.

Once you know that help is on the way, you should turn your attention to your safety and that of your passengers. If you have pulled off to the side of the road and want to exit the vehicle it is better to do so through the passenger door. Never stand directly behind the vehicle but rather move off to the side, out of harm’s way.

It’s an unfortunate truth that being stranded by the side of the road makes you easy prey for criminals. Keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles and persons. Stay inside your vehicle if you feel safer doing so and consider keeping a can of pepper spray in your vehicle in case of such situations.

Quick tips:

  • Activate the hazards
  • Pull off the road
  • Call for help
  • Put out the emergency triangle
  • Watch out for passing traffic
  • Be vigilant
  • Don’t accept assistance from suspicious characters


According to crime statistics, around 1 400 vehicles are hijacked in South Africa every month. The truth is that a hijacking can occur anywhere and at any time and the best thing that you can do is to be vigilant while driving.

Of course, prevention is better than cure so there are certain steps you can take to avoid becoming a statistic. Know the location of hijacking hotspots and avoid them if possible.  In addition, you should always be vigilant when approaching your vehicle, plan your route and let someone know where you are going and when. Don’t drive with the windows down, keep the door locked and put valuables out of sight.

If you are ever involved in a hijacking situation, the most important thing is to remain calm and to do exactly as you are told. Remember that your life and that of your passengers is more important than any car, laptop, handbag or wallet! Don’t make any sudden or threatening movements and speak slowly. Assure the assailants that you will comply with their requests.

Although it is important to take in as many details of the situation as possible you should not stare at your attackers or provoke them in any way.

Once the hijackers have driven off in the vehicle and it is safe to do so, you should find help immediately. Get to a telephone as quickly as possible to notify your vehicle tracking company, phone the police and request medical assistance if necessary. You will most likely be in a state of shock but try to give as much detail of the incident as possible.

Quick tips

  • Don’t resist
  • Leave everything in the vehicle
  • Don’t make eye contact
  • Don’t make sudden movements and keep your hands visible
  • Surrender your vehicle and move away as quickly as possible
  • Report the incident to the police

Civil unrest

Strikes and protest marches have become part of everyday life in South Africa. Whether it be in the city centre or on the highway, at some point you as a motorist could very well find yourself surrounded by protesters.

You should always be aware of any possible unrest on your route and avoid the affected areas completely if possible. The police would probably have blocked off the area so follow their instructions and don’t put yourself or your vehicle in harm’s way.

If you do, however, find yourself in a dangerous situation it is best to let the protesters know that you are not a threat to them and move out of the area as quickly as possible. Keep your vehicle moving slowly and avoid actions that could provoke the crowd such as hooting or shouting at them.

The good news is that all comprehensive insurance policies cover your vehicle for damage caused by people taking part in riots, strikes and public disorder so always put your safety and that of your passengers first.

Quick tips

  • Remain calm
  • Don’t provoke the crowd by hooting or shouting
  • Follow police instructions
  • Be vigilant
  • Stay in your vehicle and keep moving for as long as possible
  • Be prepared to abandon your vehicle quickly if need be

Flash floods

Although this is not a common occurrence on South African roads, there have been some recent incidents that were both frightening and very dangerous.

The best way to keep yourself out of harm’s way is to avoid being on the road during heavy downpours. That’s not always possible, so during thunderstorms and prolonged periods of continuous rain it is better to stay away from low-lying bridges, areas that are prone to flash flooding and large pools of water. If you come to a potentially hazardous area, back up and try to find an alternative route.

Never drive through water that is flowing fast as this could cause the tyres to lose contact with the road surface and potentially be washed away. Remember, even a 4x4 can be swept away in water that is only around 60 centimetres deep.

If you do get caught in a flash flood and the car starts floating you should open a door. This will let water in and weigh the car down. However, if the vehicle is swept away by the water you should abandon it as soon as it is safely possible.

Quick tips

  • Don’t panic
  • Abandon your vehicle if it is getting flooded
  • If you start floating, open the door to let water in
  • If you are swept away from your vehicle point your feet downstream