Unfortunately, in most big cities in Tanzania, it’s not uncommon to witness or pass by the wreckage of a car accident while on the road. Many motorists, especially those who drive public transportation vehicles like bajajis*, boda bodas* and daladalas*, like to speed and cut through lanes to get to places quickly. This dangerous yet common driving habit sometimes causes them to collide with other cars, trees, construction sites or even worse, people crossing the street.
However, even if you follow all the road safety rules and are a very careful driver, they may come a time where you may find yourself in a car accident. Knowing how to act when such a stressful situation occurs, is just as important as knowing how to drive and abiding by road safety rules. In fact, how you act once an accident occurs could help you avoid some serious legal trouble.
So before you get on the road again, here are a few tips on what to do when an accident occurs.
1. Stop where you are
Whether or not you caused the collision, it’s critical that you stop exactly where you are. You may be tempted to move the car to the side of the road to avoid a spectacle, or even worse, flee the scene altogether – but this will only bring you more trouble.
First, if you move your car, you are destroying evidence as the traffic cops measure and analyze the nature of the collision to determine who is at fault for what. Moreover, if you flee the scene, there is a great chance that someone can identify the model and make of your car and took down your license plate number. If this happens, you will be captured by traffic cops at some point and the fine will be severe (and may include jail time).
Nevertheless, there are many parts of Tanzania where people resort to mob justice when vehicles hit pedestrians or cyclists. So, it is somewhat understandable that if you do hit someone you may be tempted to flee the scene in fear for your own safety. However, leaving the scene is still highly discouraged, the best precaution is to immediately call the local police station and an ambulance. (Don’t move the person, unless the likelihood of an ambulance getting there is low). If the crowd seems agitated, stay in your car.
2. Check on everyone involved
While the damage to your car is of concern, the most important thing is the health of all parties involved.
As mentioned above, if there are any injured parties, call for an ambulance and the police immediately. However, the likelihood of an ambulance being easily available and responsive depends on where you are in Tanzania. If the ambulance takes too long, it may be best to carefully place the injured in a car and drive them to a hospital. Though this should be avoided as there may be internal fractures and bleeding that can be worsened by incorrectly carrying the wounded.
3. Inform traffic cops
Too often, long traffic queues are caused by accident scenes. And while it may be frustrating for the other drivers trying to get to work, school and elsewhere, don’t succumb to pressure and more your car. Wait until the traffic cop gets there, assesses things and gives you the ‘OK’ to move your vehicle.
Moreover, for legal security, take a picture or video of the accident scene on your camera phone. This can be useful in the future if there are any discrepancies on what is reported and what actually happened.
Also, even if you caused the accident, do not apologize or take the blame. This may sound rude, but you may be unaware of the decisions made by the other party (driver, pedestrian) before the accident happened – it may not be your fault. So, it is up to the traffic cops to determine who is responsible for what.
4. Call your insurance company
In addition to calling the ambulance, police and traffic cops, the other most important institution you should inform is your insurance company. While money shouldn’t be the most important thing on your mind at the time, your insurance will let you know what information they need from you and the traffic cops to process your claim.
However, regardless of what your insurance asks you to get, make sure you have:
- The other pedestrian or driver’s full: name, home address, contact details and car insurance details (company name and account no.)
- The other vehicle’s information: license plate number, make/brand ‘Toyota’ and model ‘Vitz’.
It never hurts to have a lawyer
Car accidents are never an easy thing to deal with, but following these steps will ensure that you are better off in the long-run, especially if a legal dispute occurs. Nevertheless, to prepare for the best outcome, it is useful to have a legal advisor you can quickly contact if ever you find yourself involved in an accident. Luckily, in addition to these tips, we have a database of the best lawyers and legal practices in Tanzania that can effectively help protect you during such unfortunate events.
But remember, the best remedy is taking precaution. Drive properly and follow road safety rules, so that even if you find yourself in an accident, the likelihood of it being your fault is greatly reduced.
Bajajis* = Three wheel motorcycles
Boda bodas* = Motorbikes
Daladalas* = Buses