What to do at a road crash scene
The National Road Traffic Act : Section 61 Accidents and Accident Reports stipulates the procedure to follow if you are involved in a road crash.
The step-by-step process when you are involved in a road crash:
- Stop your vehicle
- Help anyone who is hurt.
- Find out what the extent of the damage is.
- Get all relevant information relating to the crash
- Report the road crash to the police (even if it is only damage).
- Do not interfere with the evidence on the scene.
- Be aware of the legal consequences.
- Do not leave the scene if any injuries or fatalities are observed.
- What to expect of the of emergency services attending to an accident scene
The South African Police Services (SAPS) member will complete an accident report on the prescribed form. The document will either be filed at the relevant SAPS station, the local municipality or the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) in Cape Town depending on whether a criminal case has been opened and whether the crash occurred inside the area of the local authority. All crash reports for crashes outside municipal areas, where there is no criminal case being investigated, are kept with the DTPW.
Stop your vehicle
If you are involved in a road crash that causes injury to or the death of anyone, or which causes damage to property or any animal, you are required by law to stop your vehicle immediately.
It is a crime not to stop after a road crash, and you could be fined up to R180 000, or sent to prison for up to nine years, or both. More information on offences and penalties can be found in Section 89 of the National Road Traffic Act.
Help anyone who is hurt
After you've stopped, you need to determine if anyone is injured or deceased and help them as much as you can. Be careful with your assistance to any injuries.
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Find out what the extent of the damage is
You will need to find out how much damage has been caused to property.
You need to give your personal information and vehicle registration number to anyone who might need it relevant to the crash.
Get all relevant information for your own reference
If you are involved in the crash, you should try to get the following information from all parties involved and witnesses on the crash scene
- full names,
- ID numbers,
- telephone details, and
- vehicle registration numbers.
You should also get:
- descriptions of the vehicles,
- details of police and traffic officers and ambulance personnel, and
- details of tow truck company and staff on the scene.
This information will help you if you want to make a claim against your insurance or against the Road Accident Fund, or if you want to claim the costs of repairs from the other party.
At a later stage, you or your lawyers may need a copy of the accident report that is filled out by the police.
Report the road crash to the SAPS (even if it is only damage)
SAPS do not have to be called to the scene if no one has been hurt, but the crash must be reported - by both drivers - at a SAPS station within 24 hours.
You have to give your name, address and vehicle registration number including your driving licence to the SAPS or traffic officer, either at the scene of the crash or at a SAPS station when you report the crash.
If you are hurt and can't report the crash immediately, you must do it as soon as possible and explain why there has been a delay in reporting the road crash.
It is a criminal offence not to report a road crash in which another person's property has been damaged, or in which another person is injured, even if neither of the drivers intends taking legal action.
Reporting minor crashes online
You can now report minor crashes on the Road Traffic Management Corporation’s (RTMC) NaTIS (National Traffic Information System) website.
The Crash Reporting System will give you an automatically generated Crash Report Number (CRN) for insurance claims.
Don't interfere with evidence on the scene
You must not drink any alcohol or take any drugs that have a narcotic effect unless it is on doctor's orders.
If the police asks you to go for a medical examination, you must not drink any alcohol or take any drugs that have a narcotic effect before the examination and before you have reported the crash.
If anyone is injured in the crash, the vehicles may not be moved before the police or traffic officer has arrived and said that the vehicles can be moved.
If the crash totally blocks the passage of other vehicles, the vehicle may be moved sufficiently to allow vehicles to pass, but only after you have clearly marked the vehicle positions (for example with chalk or spray paint).
Be aware of the possible legal consequences for your actions
Some of the possible legal consequences following a crash are:
- a criminal charge of driving recklessly,
- a criminal charge of driving negligently,
- a criminal charge of culpable homicide,
- a civil claim for damage to property, or
- a civil claim for personal injury.
Do not leave the scene if any injuries or fatalities are observed
If any injuries or fatalities are identified the SAPS must attend to the scene.
Read more about the Regulations In Terms Of the National Road Traffic Act.
Contact the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to enquire about lodging a claim if a road crash causes injury or death because one of the drivers was negligent.
Before the ambulance arrives at scene, it’s necessary that a correct detailed description of the incident is given to the Emergency Medical Service’s call takers. The information given to the call takers allows appropriate resources to be dispatched to the scene in a timely manner according to the specifications of the incident.
Ambulance servicesWhen an emergency resource such as an ambulance arrives on scene, it’s requested that the patient be ready to go to hospital and have all the necessary documentation at hand such as an ID document/card/book.
Private ambulances / provincial ambulances
Ambulances are dispatched to any incident that’s registered with the Emergency Medical Services call centre, by means of dialling the emergency numbers 10177 and 112. Once the call has been logged on the service board, an ambulance will be dispatched to the incident as soon as possible. This will depend on how busy the service is at that moment. Ambulance services
Calls are prioritised according to the severity of the incident. It’s therefore important to provide correct and honest details on the condition of the individual/s involved as this determines the priority of the incident.
Protocol systems are set in place to provide emergency medical care to those who urgently require it, depending on the condition of the patient:
- Priority 1: Life-threatening emergencies (including any traumatic incident where there’s excessive loss of blood and/or in the circumstance where someone isn’t breathing), or
- Priority 2: Non-life threatening emergencies (including abdominal pain or a dislocation of a finger).
This is, however, patient dependent and is determined according to the information that’s received by the dispatcher.
There are 2 numbers that are used within the Western Cape for provincial ambulances:
Private services such as ER24 and Netcare 911 can be contacted either independently or through the 112 number.
Costs involved when private / provincial ambulances are dispatched
There are charges involved however doesn’t apply to all cases. Private services charge according to their respective rates, and usually depend on medical aid availability. The provincial government bills patients based on their income levels.
Provincial government ambulances serve the entire society irrespective of medical aid status or not. However, in cases of where there is life threatening conditions any ambulance service is required to offer emergency medical care.
If a regional hospital is unable to treat your particular condition, because it lacks the facilities, you’ll be transferred to a Designated Service Providers (DSP) in one of the main centres.
State ambulances and medical care in state hospitals are often provided free of charge for unemployed people. If you’re employed, you could receive a bill from a state hospital, but the costs are usually a fraction of what private hospitals charge. In an emergency, though, you might not want to wait the possible extra time for a state ambulance.
Determining if a patient has medical aid
In reference to provincial government ambulances this is usually communicated to the health practitioner at the scene of the incident. The health practitioner may ask at the time to provide medical aid details which are documented in the patient report form. However, medical treatment can’t be refused if a patient doesn’t possess a medical aid.
If someone doesn’t have medial aid, private medics stabilise the patient, and patients may also be transported by the private services to a public medical facility even if a patient doesn’t have medical insurance coverage.
Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) are used in circumstances where patients may be hard to reach by land, or where the nature of the illness or injury mandates a time critical transfer. They provide emergency medical treatment and transportation to the nearest most appropriate public medical facilities which are designated for receiving patients via air transport.
These are usually limited to mountain/outdoor emergencies where land ambulances aren’t suited to reach difficult areas.. HEMS may transport a patient to a private hospital that’s equipped to manage the patient if the patient is on medical aid.
This service is funded by government and other sponsors, and doesn’t depend on your patient’s medical aid or insurance. It’s therefore available to everyone. However, costs may be applicable if the patient has medical insurance.
Consent needs to be provided by the legal parents/guardians of the minor involved. However, circumstances may present where this may not be possible. It’s then the decision of the authorised adult to provide permission on the request that the parents are informed. Where no consent is immediately available, practitioners may treat the patient where any delay may lead to permanent harm or death.