Involved in an accident – here’s what to do

Jacques Viljoen
Jacques Viljoen

December is one of the busiest periods on South African roads when thousands of people will either be making their way home, or leaving for their festive season break.  Unfortunately with these high volumes the risk of road accidents also increases and the stats show an unacceptable increase in road mortalities over this period. 

“If you are involved in an accident en route, knowing what to do can go a long way towards lessening the trauma and risk involved and could even save lives,” says Jacques Viljoen, national director of the South African Motor Body Repairers Association (SAMBRA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

“You need to do everything possible to ensure your own safety and that of any passengers,” says Viljoen, “and the best way of doing this,”  he says, “is by remaining calm which is often not that easy.” 

Viljoen says if the accident is not too serious and you are able to get out of your car there are some clear steps you need to follow. They require a calm mind, so try not to panic.

Immediately following an accident:

  • Stop the car and put on your vehicle hazard lights.
  • Immediately check for any injuries.
  • Safely take photos of the incident which can be sent to your insurer.

Secure the scene 

  • If possible, you must now pull your vehicle well off the road.
  • Turn on the headlights and hazard lights.
  • Place your emergency triangle 45 metres behind the accident vehicle/s, facing traffic approaching from behind. You can also ask someone to stand at least 50m away from the scene to alert oncoming traffic, but always ensure it is  safe to do so. You should not do this on a highway, for example.
  • Phone emergency services (which should be on speed dial on your cellphone). Be prepared to think clearly and give them all the details they need so that the most appropriate and nearest emergency personnel are dispatched. Offer the dispatcher the nearest landmark, intersection or route marker to enable help to get their as quickly as possible.
  • If you or anyone in the car is injured, get your first-aid kit out of your car and put on the latex gloves to  attend to any injuries.
  • If they are able to speak, ask how injured they believe they are.
  • Start CPR, if you are trained to do so, if necessary  on any passengers who are not breathing.
  • If someone is bleeding heavily and you are a trained first aider and comfortable to assist injured passengers, proceed to apply first aid as per your training until help arrives

Secure evidence

  • If there is another car involved exchange full details
  • Do not discuss the liability of the accident, only state the facts
  • If you are insured and a tow truck arrives on the scene, refuse their help unless they are accredited by your insurance company.
  • If you have internet connection, you can go to the SAMBRA website and search for your closest motor body repairer. 

“The scene of an accident is never pleasant, however, if you are calm and prepared with all the emergency items you should always carry in your car, you can make a difference while waiting for professional help to arrive,” he says.

SAMBRA concurs with the AA’s list of 20 emergency items you should ALWAYS have in your car:

1.            First-aid kit

2.            Fire extinguisher

3.            Emergency triangle

4.            Reflective jacket

5.            Jumper cables

6.            Tow rope

7.            Tyre sealant

8.            Multi-tool

9.            Duct tape

10.          Flashlight

11.          Cellphone charger

12.          Pen and paper

13.          Plastic poncho

14.          Paper towels or wet wipes

15.          Space blanket

16.          Drinking water

17.          Snacks

18.          Road maps

19.          Cash

20.          Emergency documents

“If you fail to comply with these, you could face criminal charges or a civil lawsuit, especially if you leave the scene of an accident where injuries or fatalities have occurred,” he concludes.

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