Getting into a car accident can be a shocking and stressful experience. The crunching sound of your vehicle against another’s, is enough to send anyone into a panic. That is why it is important to know what to do after a car crash and to follow the correct procedure, says Mthatha’s Dr Mxolisi Xulu.
Your actions on the road impact the lives of many, he says.
Mzansi has an annual road death toll that is higher than the world average. According to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA), South Africa’s Road deaths – averaging 14 000 people per year – are a “national crisis”.
Over the holidays, serious road accidents are a daily occurrence.
‘Drunk driver left me wheelchair-bound’
Nobathembu Peter (29), a road safety advocate and disability rights campaigner from Makhaza, Cape Town, says that she was three years old when she was struck by a drunk driver. The accident left her wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life.
For her, life hasn’t been a bed of roses, but neither has it been a bed of thorns, she says. “Having to navigate an ableist society as a disabled person is the only thing I have to complain about. In short, life with a disability is challenging because the world does not want to provide disabled people the tools they need to thrive.”
Peter says that drunk drivers are a danger everyone on the road. “Many people have died as a result of their careless actions.”
Maintain safe speeds
Nontuthuzelo Chabeni (48), a former testing traffic officer from George in the Western Cape, was involved in a vehicle accident on 26 August, 2018. Her life has changed dramatically since she was a dedicated and hardworking mother and wife. Moving from George to Cape Town was one of the major challenges she encountered because of her wheelchair and her need to be close to quality healthcare facilities.
“Being confined to a wheelchair has profoundly impacted my way of life. I hope drivers understand how quickly their carelessness may change someone else’s life.”
“It’s difficult to be a wheelchair-bound mother, but it’s much more difficult to be a mother in a relationship,” she says.
A light at the end of the tunnel manifested through the Qhakaza Disability Organisation. When she joined, she learned early on that being in a wheelchair does not mean that your life is over.
“It is possible to live a happy life being in a wheelchair, and even work if the environment permits,” she says.
Drivers must learn to recognise the symptoms of tiredness. Recklessness on the road can have terrible implications for many people, she warns.
What to do in event of MVA
According to Xulu, motor vehicle accidents (MVA) can cause injury, disability, death, and property damage, among other things. One may sustain a variety of injuries including head and spine injuries, fractures, and burns.
It is important to know how to respond if you find yourself on the road during a car crash.
“Remember, a car crash has legal consequences. South African law has clearly set out your duties if you are involved in or contribute to a car crash where property might be damaged, a person might be killed or someone might be injured.”
He shares three important guidelines to follow in the event of a car crash:
Stop, secure and stay calm
If you are the driver involved in a car accident, the law states that you must stop your vehicle immediately and assist. This must be done regardless of the extent of the accident.
“It is not compulsory to stop if you hit a tree, injure yourself or your vehicle, but you must stop if a pedestrian is injured or you collide with another vehicle or someone’s property.”
Call for help
It is crucial to get hold of relevant people such as ambulances and police. You should remain at the scene until you are instructed to leave by the police.
“If you have knowledge about first aid, help; otherwise, do not do anything and wait for help. The aim is to alleviate, not aggravate the injury,” he says.
“There are a lot of complications that occur during the period when someone is offering help post-MVA, especially those without medical knowledge.”
Know the law
A hit-and-run is a criminal offence according to the law. Accidents involving another person or another person’s property should be reported to the police, he says.
- Call 10177 if an ambulance is required, 10111 if a police response is required, and on a cell phone, 112 for any emergency. These are important numbers to know, he says.
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