Steps to take at accident scene

Almost every driver will be involved in some form of road accident, major or minor, during his or her lifetime. It is not something we like to think about, but we have to be prepared for it. Here's some advice about what you should and should not do at the scene of the accident, assuming you are in a condition to do anything. Since one's actions will be determined by the severity of the accident, we have grouped traffic accidents into two categories.

l Minor accidents:

These are accidents where there are no serious injuries to people and relatively slight vehicle damage - low-impact rear-end shunts, parking area coming-togethers, etc. Here it is sufficient for the drivers to identify themselves to each other, and for each to report the incident in writing at a police station within 24 hours. These two things are compulsory in all accidents. Take down the registration number, make and colour of the other vehicle, as well as the name, address and contact number of the driver. You are obliged to show official proof of identity, and the other driver has the same obligation to you.

Drivers must identify each other and each one must report the accident to the police in writing

l Accidents resulting in severe damage to vehicles and/or serious injuries to people:

Realise that this might lead to a court case, either to settle a civil claim for damages, or to decide on a prosecution for criminal negligence. Vehicles may not be moved from where they came to rest, unless authorisation is received from the police. If there are seriously injured people, everybody's first duty is to assist them in whatever way it can safely be done.

The word safely is important and refers to your own safety as well as the safety of the injured person.

Vehicles must not be removed from the scene unless authorised by police

For instance, you should not move a person suspected of having sustained an injury to the neck or spinal column, until a trained medical professional arrives at the scene. Rather use a cellphone to call for help immediately. It is also a fact that other vehicles will often collide with those already disabled in an accident, especially in conditions of poor visibility, such as fog or darkness.

Nobody can expect you to put your own safety at risk by hanging around in a position where you can be struck if another car ploughs into the wreckage. It might be better to put out warning triangles and wait for the emergency services to arrive.