India loses over 1.5 lakh lives in road traffic accidents every year, and its roads are among the most unsafe in the world. While thousands of accidents occur every year, we never really take note of statistics until we are involved in a mishap.
In case you are in a road accident or happen to witness one, here are some handy suggestions.
1. In a mishap, try to remain calm and attend to the injured. Call for help if the injuries are grave.
2. We all know that people tend to crowd around accident sites. Do ensure that there is a safe distance between the vehicle, the victim and the crowd.
3. Take photos of the vehicles involved. Be sure to do this before the cops tow it away as ‘evidence’.
3. Approach the nearest police station and launch a complaint stating exactly what transpired when the accident took place.
4. After registering the FIR, the vehicle/vehicles which caused the accident will be taken to the nearest police station, for a proper certification from the officials of the Motor Vehicle Department.
5. During this period, the driver responsible for the accident will be called, and their statement will be taken, with the case then forwarded to the concerned Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal.
5. During the trial, both the accused and the victim get a chance to have their arguments heard.
Now, onto some detailed information.
1. In case a road accident victim dies, it needs to be proven that the accident was a result of rash and negligent driving. The prosecution needs to prove this. The police will file a criminal case under Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with offences relating to death due to negligence.
2. Under civil and criminal law, the relationship between the car owner and car driver is defined as that between a ‘master’ and a ‘servant,’ where the former cannot be held liable for wrongdoings by the latter unless it is proven that it was done after permission from the ‘master.’
3. Legally, the driver of the vehicle is responsible for transporting the injured person to the hospital.
4. In case of death or permanent disability due to the accident, the owner of the vehicle will be liable to pay compensation to the accident victim.
5. When dealing with an accident, it helps to know what your rights are. The Motor Vehicles Act 1988 can come to your aid. The following are vital points from this Act:
a) Section 132 and 134: These sections deal with the responsibility of a driver. Section 134 even states that the Act requires immediate action by the driver, or the person-in-charge to take the injured person the hospital as soon as possible.
b) The Act mentions three modes by which the aggrieved party could receive compensation.
– The principle of no-fault liability means that even without fault of the person causing the accident, he/she shall be liable, and the injured party or the claimant, does not need to plead before the court to prove any fault or negligence on the driver’s part.
– Then come the ‘hit and run’ cases, whose statutes state that when a person causes an accident, he/she should give his name and licence number to the authorities concerned, but when such an identity is disguised since a person has run away, there is a provision where victims will be paid money by the government.
– Lastly, Section 163A which deals with special provisions as to payment of compensation on a structured formula basis. It says that the claimant does not need to prove the driver’s rashness. In such cases, the vehicle’s owner or authorised insurer has to compensate, and the identity of the accused should be known.
6. On March 30, 2016, as mentioned on the website of the SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF), the Supreme Court of India gave “force of law” to the guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
This law gives legal protection to bystanders who help road accident victims, instructing police and hospitals not to hassle people providing emergency help in times of distress.
Some important features of the law are:
1. The bystander has no obligation to answer any question as soon as he/she takes a victim to a hospital. He/she can leave soon after checking the patient.
2. He/she is not obliged to reveal his name/identity.
3. The person shall be rewarded by the State Government, as an encouragement to other citizens.
4. The person should be heard in only a single hearing in court, to facilitate hassle-free legal proceedings.
5. If the police or doctors harass a good samaritan, they will be punished accordingly.
Road accident cases are tricky, so the authorities have spelt out everything in the Act. However, the rules need to be enforced better, and this is something that can be done by parents, by not letting minors drive and teaching them to follow traffic rules when they do come of age.
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Additionally, it pays well to be alert and attentive while driving, to avoid a disastrous situation. However, if you ever are in an accident, you now know what to do!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)