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Communtity Law Manual | Driving & traffic law | Accidents: Driver responsibilities

Accidents: Driver responsibilities

Overview

What do I have to do if I’m involved in an accident?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 22(1)

If you’re involved, directly or indirectly, in an accident while driving, you must:

  • stop
  • find out if anyone has been injured, and
  • give all the help you can to anyone who’s injured.

It’s a serious offence to fail to stop and check whether anyone has been injured, even if it turns out no-one was in fact hurt. If you don’t have a reasonable excuse you can be jailed for up to three months or fined up to $4,500. You’ll also be automatically disqualified from driving for at least six months.

Land Transport Act 1998, s 35

If someone is injured or killed in the accident and you fail to stop and check if anyone is injured and to help any injured people, you can be jailed for up to five years or fined up to $20,000. You must also be disqualified for at least one year.

Land Transport Act 1998, s 36

Obligation to give your details when asked

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 22(2), 47

If you’re asked by a police officer, or by anyone who was involved in the accident, you must give them:

  • your name and address
  • the name and address of the owner of the vehicle you were driving (if you’re not the owner), and
  • your vehicle’s registration number.

You can be fined up to $5,000 if you don’t give that information when you’re asked to, unless you have a reasonable excuse.

When you must report accidents to the police

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 22(3), 22(5), 47

If you’ve been involved, directly or indirectly, in an accident while driving, and someone has been hurt or property has been damaged, you’re legally required to report it to the police, as follows:

  • Death or injury – If someone was killed or injured in the accident, you must report it to the police as soon as reasonably practicable, and within 24 hours at the latest, unless you can’t report it because you’ve been injured yourself.
  • Damage to parked cars – If the accident involved damage to a parked vehicle or to other property, but you can’t contact or identify the owner quickly and easily, you must report the accident to the police as soon as reasonably practicable, and within 60 hours (2½ days) at the latest.

You can be fined up to $5,000 if you don’t report the accident in these situations, unless you have a reasonable excuse.

You don’t have to report accidents if no-one is injured and you’re able to contact the owner of any unoccupied vehicle or other property that was damaged.

Reporting damaged cars or other property to the owner

Land Transport Act 1998, ss 22(4), 22(5), 47

If an accident you’re involved in causes damage to a parked vehicle or other property, you must contact the owner within 48 hours (unless you can’t because you’re injured). You must tell the owner:

  • your name and address
  • where the accident happened
  • the damaged vehicle’s registration number (if the damage was to a vehicle).

You can be fined up to $5,000 if you don’t do this, unless you have a reasonable excuse.

If you can’t contact the owner, you must report the accident to the police no later than 60 hours after the accident (see above, “When you must report accidents to the police”).

Note: The obligations to report an accident to the police or to a vehicle or property owner (see above) don’t apply if you’ve been arrested or are being held by the police because of the accident.

Land Transport Act 1998, s 22(7)

What information should I write down if I’m involved in an accident?

It’s usually helpful to write down the following information at the time of the accident:

  • the name, address and phone number of any other driver involved in the accident
  • the registration number of any other vehicle involved in the accident
  • the other driver’s insurance company details, if they’re insured
  • the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses.

What information should I give to the other driver?

Land Transport Act 1998, s 22(2)

If the other driver asks you, you’re legally required to tell them your name and address, your vehicle’s registration number, and, if you don’t own the vehicle, the name and address of the owner.

It’s also a good idea to give them your insurance company’s details.

Note: You shouldn’t say whose fault you think the accident was. It’s possible your insurance company will refuse to pay out if you say that the accident was your fault.

Writing down a description of the accident

As soon as possible after the accident you should write down as much as you can remember about what happened, including:

  • what time it was
  • where the accident happened
  • what the weather and road conditions were like
  • where the vehicles were when they collided (it’s a good idea to draw a sketch of the accident scene)
  • the speed you were travelling at, and the speed you think the other vehicle was travelling at.
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