Most drivers have an idea of the basic steps to follow in the event of an accident, but many don’t realise how much revolves around admin processes. This can be confusing and lead to incorrect information that could hold up insurance or repair procedures.
Accidents are an unfortunate part of the job when it comes to the fleet industry. Nobody is more aware of this than fleet drivers, but it’s surprising how many drivers don’t know how to deal with an accident if they’re involved in one. This is often due to lack of training, poor internal policy, or even simply because they’re in shock. The best advice is to offer training, and to ensure your drivers always have a checklist with them determining the 5 things drivers need to do after an accident.
A big part of training should include ensuring the correct documentation, both internal and external such as SAPS or insurance, is completed at each step.
Stop, stay calm and take stock
Drivers need to be trained and reminded to stay calm if they’re involved in an accident. This may sound like a very ‘fluffy’ point to list first, but staying calm prevents mistakes. Another reason why this point needs to be highlighted is that the chances are good your driver was not at fault, and the last thing a fleet driver should do is to lose their temper and possibly escalate the situation. Fleet drivers need to be able to keep a cool head, no matter how the accident happened, in order to make sure they get all the information and detail needed to follow accident reporting procedures.
A way to achieve this (that should be included in training) is to assess rather than to react: drivers need to assess the severity of the accident and check if they or anyone else is in need of medical assistance. If so, they need to contact emergency services immediately. An important point to remember: even if others at the scene say they have called emergency services, drivers should make the call anyway, just ensure the correct location and situation is reported. It’s a good rule to have. All drivers should have a list of crucial emergency numbers on hand.
As mentioned above, emergency services should be called first if people are injured. And immediately after that, the driver needs to contact their employer / manager. All fleet companies should have an ‘accident response’ policy in place, and drivers must be able to report the incident internally as soon as possible. This will allow the fleet manager to make any necessary arrangements as soon as possible.
Drivers must make sure that they have the necessary contact details. If a company doesn’t have a clear process of what to do in the event of an accident, drivers need to speak up and make sure they have the necessary contact details.
Document the details
Once all necessary people have been contacted, drivers need to take note and document the details of the accident. If possible, drivers should take pictures of the scene and all vehicles involved. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of license plates – this avoids any confusion at a later stage.
Some insurance companies require photographs of the damage. Make sure that drivers know how to complete the insurance information.
Fleet drivers should always have a pen and notebook so they can take down the names, numbers, and insurance details of other people involved in the accident. Keep in mind: the reason why an old-fashioned pen & paper is still a good idea (instead of just using a smartphone), is because phones can get damaged or lost in an accident.
Drivers should always take down the information of other people and vehicles involved, even if the vehicle is equipped with the best telematics equipment on the market. It’s a ‘rather safe than sorry’ rule, and you can never have too much information.
Report to the police
Most companies require all accidents to be reported to the police, even if it’s a minor accident. If it’s a serious accident, the police will probably take statements at the scene. In this case, drivers must make sure they get a copy of the report and case number immediately.
In the event of a minor accident, the parties involved might decide to just exchange details and report to the police. If that’s the case, drivers need to ensure they fill in a police report, preferably on the same day.
Know what type of police report to complete
Depending on the type of incident, drivers need to know what type of report to complete.
In the event of an accident, different types of reports need to be filled in depending on what kind of accident took place. Pedestrian accidents, for example, require a lot more time and documentation than an accident between two vehicles with no injuries.
In the event of theft (of a vehicle, or of goods inside a vehicle), the driver will need to report a crime, not an accident.
According to the SAPS website:
- If police officials attend the crime scene, they will obtain a statement from you and witnesses if possible. The police official will register the case in the SAPS Crime Administration System (CAS) at the police station. The complainant will receive a CAS number via SMS or telephonically that needs to be kept as a reference for future enquiries regarding the criminal case.
- If you visit the local police station to report a crime, you will be attended to in the Community Service Centre by a police official. The police official will first interview you and then take a statement from you. The reported crime will be registered in the CAS. You will be given a CAS number which must be used for all enquiries regarding the reported criminal case.
It’s important that drivers know what to expect so they can keep their fleet managers updated on proceedings.
Fact-check & administration
One of the best habits a fleet driver can have is to write down how the accident happened – step-by-step – to use as a reference (along with the police report). Most people quickly forget small details after an accident, so writing down as many details as possible, detailing how the accident happened, will help in the long run.
Quite often drivers will have to fill in internal documents, or even undergo a review as a result of an accident, but this can take place days or weeks after the incident took place. Most people don’t remember every single detail, so it’s a good idea for drivers to take them time to write an account of the accident as soon as possible – even if it’s just for their own use when dealing with admin weeks down the line.
Whether your company makes use of a fleet management company and telematics, or runs everything internally, the above five steps should always be completed by the driver after an accident. Company policies may vary, but most will include the above steps in one way or another. There are many checklists available that companies and drivers can adapt to suit their specific needs.