Reacting in motor accidents

According to Bukit Aman Traffic Investigations and Enforcement Department director Deputy Commissioner Datuk Azisman Alias, 548,598 road accidents were reported to the police last year. On average, more than one accident occurred every minute around the clock.

Motorists ought to be more careful to avoid crashes and know what to do when involved in collisions. But many tend to react impulsively, with some taking the law into their own hands.

Keeping a baseball bat, hockey stick, golf club, metal rod, wooden stick or thick cane in the car is a bad idea as drivers become combative when armed. Although meant for self-defence, these weapons can kill, and victims can be anyone in a fight.

After a collision, it is common to see drivers getting out of their vehicles to inspect the damage. But if one driver decides to flee, the other may give chase and try to force the ‘hit-and-run’ vehicle to stop.

A fender-bender is nothing more than a common road accident and at most, the driver at fault summoned and slapped with a RM300 compound fine. But a high-speed chase is willful reckless driving that endangers many other road users.

Forcing a runaway vehicle to stop may send it crashing into a wall or drain and cause serious injury to the driver. But trying to flee is a spontaneous natural reaction which can happen to anyone at some point in time. Certainly, they are not robbers or criminals that must be stopped.

All that is necessary is to note the registration number and, if possible, the make, model and colour of the vehicle to make a police report together with the date, time, place, direction and speed the vehicles were travelling.

The chase is pointless as the other driver is not compelled to pay compensation. The victim could either claim from his own insurance company without suffering loss of no claim discount or make a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance company.

Demanding for compensation aggressively could amount to extortion, which is a crime. Motorists who expect on-the-spot compensation are also easy targets for robbers or carjackers when they get out to inspect after being bumped by the vehicle behind.

If a motorist were to hit and injure a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist in a deserted area, the driver must stop and send the victim to the nearest clinic or hospital. If not, this will constitute a hit-and-run case.

But if it were to happen in a crowded area, it will be unwise to stop as doing so could create a greater tragedy. The driver may not be at fault but the sight of the victim writhing in pain could incense bystanders who did not witness the accident the moment it happened.

A crowd can easily turn unruly and an angry mob could attack the driver. If beaten to death, many could be charged for murder. While it is good to be concerned of the injured, motorists should be aware of the ramifications for staying behind.

Such crowds can be difficult to control. For example, a female motorcyclist swerved to avoid a car, hit a concrete culvert and died on the spot at Kuala Selangor some time ago. The car driver stopped at a nearby restaurant and called emergency services.

Following the accident, a huge crowd of onlookers gathered at the scene. Later a group of men came to the restaurant and confronted the driver. Two police cars arrived just in time, but a scuffle ensued between police and the group.

Several policemen were injured by the mob before two more police cars arrived. By that time, there were about 200 people gathered at the scene. The crowd then turned on another motorist who they believed was related to the driver.

But he had nothing to do with the accident, only stopping to see what was going on. He was beaten and kicked by the mob and suffered wounds to his head, arm and back. That was the price he paid for stopping to film the accident scene.

After an accident, it is usual to find traffic on both sides of the road reduced to a crawl as passing motorists rubberneck when passing damaged vehicles, with some colliding into other vehicles. As for me, I would be extra careful and drive past the accident scene soonest possible.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.