Road accidents are unexpected events involving either injury or death when vehicles collide or overturn on the road. They can occur for several reasons which can include speeding, driving vehicles in questionable mechanical conditions and driving under the influence of alcohol, among others.
In case an accident has occurred, there are a number of steps to follow. These steps apply in situations regardless whether or not there is a traffic officer as stipulated in the Traffic and Road Safety Act of 1998.
According to the Traffic Act, road accidents are categorised into minor, serious and fatal, depending on the level of harm or damage caused. A minor accident is one where there is no death and victim but damage to the vehicles involved.
Serious accidents include victims who may be injured in one way or another while fatal ones are those where there is death. James Wakooli, the Deputy Traffic Commander for Kampala Metropolitan, says failure to report an accident is a crime punished under this Act.
When you report
However, if an accident has been reported by the person who commits it, it is not a crime until proven by either the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) or State Attorney.
In any accident, if the driver is alive and can function normally, the driver should first determine his or her safety before doing anything else. This is important because of the tendency for people to gang up against the driver in anger for the accident in that they always presume is a crime against them (drivers).
If the situation is safe for him or her and there are no police, the driver can offer assistance to the victim by taking that person to the nearest hospital before reporting the matter to police. But the driver should first mark the spot where the accident has occurred before driving away the vehicle to police where he or she reports the case.
In case the scenario becomes dangerous to the life of the driver, he or she is supposed to run to the nearest police station and report the case.
Assessing the seriousness
However, in case the accident has occurred in the presence of traffic officers, it is the responsibility of the officers to assess the nature of the accident-whether it is minor, serious or fatal- and securing the place for the parties involved in the accident.
If the accident is serious, the officers then have to first consider saving the lives of victims involved.
In case of minor accidents, the driver can leave the vehicle at the scene and contact police unlike in the case of serious or fatal accidents. According to Isaac Luwerere, a traffic officer operating along Jinja Road, minor accidents can be resolved without reporting them to police by the parties affected.
But for the case of serious and fatal accidents involving injury or harm to people, the procedure is to report to police whenever they occur. This is because they involve danger on the lives of citizens whom the state has the duty to protect.
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Causing injury or death through dangerous driving attracts a fine of Shs1,5m (minimum) or two years imprisonment or a maximum fine of Shs4m or imprisonment of three years. Failing to stop and report an accident attracts a minimum fine of Shs100,000 or a maximum fine of Shs600,000.
If there is a crash
If you are in a crash, stop and help:
• Warn other motorists by switching on your hazard warning lights (double indicators) and if necessary, wave other drivers to slow down.
• Control the traffic so as to avoid a further crash-ask other drivers and local people to help in this.
• Ask drivers to switch off their engines and put out any cigarettes
• Arrange for the police to be called immediately-dial 999 or 112, state the exact location of the crash and the numbers of vehicles and injured persons involved.
• Be prepared to give first aid.
• If the injuries are serious, and there is little chance of getting help quickly, make arrangements to take the injured to the nearest hospital or clinic.
• Do not steal from the victims. Discourage everyone else from doing so.
• Do not take the law in your own hands. Discourage mob justice.
When passing by a crash scene do net get distracted-concentrate on the road ahead. Obey the commands of police officers who are not at the scene and stay calm if there are long delays.
If you are involved in a road accident in which someone is injured you must give your name and address (and the name and address of the vehicle owner, if different) to any other person involved and you must report the crash to the nearest police station or police officer as soon as possible.
You must stop and assist persons involved in a road crash, unless you fear for own safety. If you are involved in a crash in which no one is injured you need not inform the police, but you must give your name and address) and the name and address of the vehicle owner, if different) to any other person involved.
Compiled by Jude Katende