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In the Event of an Accident

Ensure Your Own Safety and that: You Yourself Do Not Create Additional Danger

Do not run across a busy motorway. Wear reflective clothing if possible. Do not smoke in cases of chemical or petrol spillage.

Ensure the Safety of Others

Park your car to protect the scene well clear of the accident site. Look out for physical dangers (e.g. HAZCHEM -hazardous chemical – symbols, damaged power lines or spilt fuel). Disable the vehicles involved by turning off engines and applying handbrakes. Do not use your mobile phone close to vehicles carrying flammable loads.

Warn Other Road Users

Turn your hazard lights on.

Assess the Casualties

Are you or any casualty in danger? Is the casualty conscious? Is their airway open and clear? Is the casualty breathing? Is there a pulse?

ABC Checks on Casualties


Tilting the casualty’s head back and lifting the chin will ‘open their airway’.


Ensure all casualties are breathing and have the ability to carry on breathing. If a casualty is not breathing, pinch nostrils and apply artificial ventilation by blowing your expelled air into the casualty’s lungs.


If the heart has stopped (no pulse), ‘chest compressions’ can be applied (preferably by a qualified first-aider) to force blood through the heart and around the body. They must be combined with artificial ventilation so that the blood is oxygenated (use 15 compressions to 2 breaths ratio). That will keep the body receptive to defibrillation when the emergency service arrives.

Other Important Advice

Get help

If bystanders are present, get them to phone for an ambulance at once. Otherwise, check on casualties first.

Apply life-saving first aid

Life threatening or serious injuries must be treated swiftly. It is vital that such casualties are treated first. Remember: a casualty who is screaming is less likely to be in danger than a silent or moaning casualty.


Control bleeding by applying direct pressure and, where possible, elevating injured body parts.


Cool burns by pouring cold water over them for a minimum of 20 minutes or until the casualty no longer complains of pain.

Broken bones

Advise the casualty to sit or lie still; keep the injured part supported by a blanket or pillow until help arrives.

Give accurate information to the ambulance crew

When you dial 999, the control officer needs to know the exact location, type and seriousness of the accident; the number, sex and approximate age of casualties involved and anything you know about their condition, details of any hazards and whether any casualties are trapped.

Give reassurance and minor first aid treatment

Assure the casualty that help is on its way and remain calm yourself. Treat any minor cuts and bruises.

Treat shock

Anyone hurt in an accident is likely to suffer some degree of shock. Talk to the casualty gently and lay him/her down if necessary. Blood loss and shock display the same symptoms.

Provide warmth

Protect the casualty from cold with a coat or blanket. However, it is important not to overheat the casualty, so do not apply a hot-water bottle or other source of direct heat.

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Think Ahead

  • Is the inside of your car safe?
  • If you have a first aid kit, make sure it is either held down securely or is of the soft cushion variety. This stops any likelihood of the kit becoming a missile in the event of an accident.
  • How prepared are you?
  • Keep these items in your car at all times – first aid kit, pillow, blanket, torch, warning triangle.
  • Consider taking a basic first aid course ¬contact your local Red Cross Branch for details (020 7235 5454].
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Road Traffic Accidents

Accidents can happen to anyone, even the safest and most careful drivers.

The majority of minor collisions are easily dealt with by the drivers involved and do not need to be reported to the police. But however minor the collision, you must always stop and give particulars and, in certain circumstances, report the incident. Failure to do so may result in a maximum fine of £5000 and obligatory endorsement of between 5 and 10 points.

You may be disqualified if you commit both offences of failure to stop and failure to report the accident.

The Road Traffic Act 1991 gives the maximum penalty of six months imprisonment for this offence. Many accidents are caused by debris on the road, which forces a driver to take evasive action.

The Road Traffic Act 1991 provides for an endangerment offence to deal with people who deliberately and unlawfully place obstructions on the road, or interfere with traffic equipment in a way that could cause injury or damage.

The charge not only covers such actions that actually cause an accident, but also those that are likely to cause one. This includes, for example, the vandal who drops bricks from a bridge on to a road below, and a motorist who throws drinks cartons or other rubbish on to the road from a moving vehicle.

To emphasise the malicious nature of this offence, the maximum penalty is seven years imprisonment. This offence, however, does not apply in Scotland.

England and Wales

The Road Traffic Act 1988, states that a road accident occurs when, owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road, injury is caused to persons or animals, or damage is caused to vehicles or property.

In such circumstances you must stop. For legal purposes, personal injury is restricted to persons other than yourself. Injury to animals covers any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog, unless they are carried in a vehicle or a trailer drawn by it.

Vehicle damage means damage to a Vehicle other than your own, and property damage covers any property on, or forming part of, the land on which the road is situated, or land adjacent to the road. After stopping, you are obliged by law to give any person affected by the accident:

  • Your name and address.
  • The name and address of the owner of the vehicle.
  • The registration number of the vehicle.


Scottish law relating to accidents is the same as in England and Wales, apart from the definition of a ‘road’. The main difference at present is in the interpretation of ‘right of passage by a member of the Public’. In England and Wales, the Road Traffic Act 1988 defines a road as ‘any highway and any other road to which the public has access’ and therefore includes, for example, footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks.

Under the Roads [Scotland) Act 1984, a road is defined as any way over which the public has a right of passage which may include adjacent footpaths. The Road Traffic Act 1991 makes provision to extend the Scottish definition to bring it more closely into line with that in England and Wales.

Northern Ireland

Under the Road Traffic [NI) Order 1981, the definition of a road accident is similar to that in England and Wales, It is deemed to have occurred when the presence of a motor vehicle on a road or public place causes: Injury to any person other than yourself, or any animal other than one in your own vehicle or owned by you Damage to any property other than your own vehicle, property in or on that vehicle, or property belonging to the driver or owner of the vehicle. If such an accident occurs, you must:
  • Stop
  • Keep the motor vehicle stationary at or near the scene for a ‘reasonable period’ in order to give your particulars to any police officer on demand and any other person reasonably requiring them.

If, for any reason, you are unable to give your particulars at the scene, or the accident has resulted in injury to another person, then you must report the accident ‘forthwith’ to a police officer or at a police station.

All accidents involving personal injury, including injury to passengers travelling in your own vehicle, must be reported to the police ‘forthwith’ even if details have already been exchanged at the scene. On reporting the incident to the police, you are obliged to produce:

  • Your name and address,
  • The vehicle owner’s name and address if different to your own,
  • The registration number of the vehicle,
  • A valid certificate of insurance.
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Personal Injury Accident

If the accident involved personal injury to someone other than yourself, you must report the incident to the police as soon as possible, certainly within 24 hours, unless you produced your certificate of insurance for inspection by the injured party at the scene and they have your name and address, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle and vehicle registration number.

If you were unable to show the documents at the scene, you must produce them at a police station within seven days of the incident. Failure to do so may result in a maximum fine of £400. If you are unable to exchange particulars with those affected by the accident (a collision with an unattended vehicle, for example), you are required to make reasonable enquiries to discover the owner of the damaged vehicle or property.

If you are not able to locate them, you are obliged to report the incident to the police. Even if you have left written notice of the relevant details, you must still report the incident because you have been unable to exchange particulars in person.

The driver of the vehicle involved must personally report the incident to a police officer or at a police station as soon as ‘reasonably’ practicable, and in any case within 24 hours. You should also call the police if the other driver involved refuses to give particulars. Reporting an accident to the police by telephone is not sufficient; neither should you get someone else to do it for you.

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Practical Advice at the Scene of an Accident

The normal reaction after any accident is one of shock and anger. It is, however, imperative to stay calm as there are a number of details you must obtain for legal and insurance purposes.


Note any witnesses and ensure you get their names, addresses, vehicle registrations if applicable and make a written note of anything they say.

People tend to disappear quickly after an accident to avoid involvement, so it is advisable to approach any potential witnesses before speaking to the drivers of the other vehicle(s) involved. If you have a camera, take photos of the scene and also the position and damage to the vehicles.

Other drivers

Note the name, address and telephone number of any driver involved; name and address of the owner if different to the driver; make model and registration number of the vehicle(s) involved. In addition, if anybody has been injured, the drivers must exchange insurance details. If this is not possible at the scene, the police should be informed at the earliest opportunity, but without fail within 24 hours.

Even where there are no injuries, the parties should still exchange insurance details as soon as possible but, if they have exchanged all other required information, they do not need to report the incident to the police. You should also note the colour and condition of the vehicle and whether it was correctly lit and made the appropriate signals.

If you have hit an animal, car or other property (this includes council-owned property such as bollards, road-signs, etc) and the owner is not present for you to offer your details, you should report the incident to the police as above.


Although you are not obliged to say anything at the scene, other than exchange the relevant particulars, it is advisable to give the police a statement if you were clearly without blame to help establish your innocence.

If, however, you are in any doubt or believe the accident was partly or completely your fault, it is better to keep quiet. In the heat of the moment you may inadvertently say something you could later regret, and by admitting blame you may invalidate your insurance.

If you choose to make a statement to the police, it is more sensible to wait until your mind is clearer and write your statement later. The police will probably offer to write your statement for you and let you sign it but you are under no obligation to do so.

Whichever way you choose to make your statement, remember to keep a written copy for yourself. It is also advisable to make a written note of the name, collar number and station of the police officer dealing with the accident.

Accident Report

Use the guide provided on the following pages to note all particulars and draw a plan while the details are fresh in your mind. This will help you with your insurance claim and the police if they wish to investigate the incident further.

If you copy out these notes later to expand the detail, you should still keep the original which may provide good documentary evidence. In addition to those details already mentioned, you should also make careful notes of the road and weather conditions and the time and place of the accident.

Try to specify the road and nearest road junction names and state the distance and direction between them and the scene of the accident. The clearest way of describing the accident is by a simple line drawing (not necessarily to scale).

Indicate the position of the vehicles before and after the incident, with arrows to show the direction of travel, and approximate distances between the cars and from the nearest road junctions and signs.

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