The laws surrounding how and when traffic accidents should be reported have been changed, with the amended laws due to come into force on October 15.
These changes, which are intended to streamline crash-reporting processes and alleviate time spent by police attending minor accidents, are expected to cause some confusion in the beginning.
Once they come into effect, you may be unsure whether or not you need to wait for police in the wake of a car accident, or if you are legally allowed to leave the scene.
Here is a quick guide to the new requirements, so you will be aware of the changes ahead of time.
Why have these changes been brought about?
The changes are aimed at making our roads safer, reducing traffic congestion as a result of an accident blocking a road, and freeing up police resources.
Currently, the law states that police need to attend any accident where towing is required, even if it’s minor, and a police report is often needed by insurance companies if motorists want to make even a small claim for repairs to their vehicle as a result of an accident.
This usually means a lot of waiting around, and vehicles may be left blocking traffic for hours until police come and arrange for them to be towed.
It also means that the driver at fault will normally get a ticket for negligent driving, which attracts a fine of $415 and a loss of three demerit points.
The idea behind the new laws is that if people no longer have to wait for police after a minor accident, they can exchange details and arrange their own tow and traffic can get flowing again faster.
It will also reduce time spent standing beside the road waiting for police to arrive, which can be dangerous for people who have an accident on a main road and then have to stand beside the busy traffic and wait.
It’s believed that the new rules will cut through red tape considerably, and free up police resources to spend time focusing on other more important duties.
Accidents requiring towing will still need to be reported, but this can be done later over the phone.
Do I still have to report an accident?
Under the new legislation, you only need to have police attend after an accident under certain circumstances.
These circumstances are:
- Where someone is killed or injured.
- Where the other driver drove off without giving you their details.
- Where it appears that the other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.
- If you are involved in an accident that meets any of the above criteria, you need to remain at the scene until police arrive.
Otherwise, you are free to move your vehicle to the side of the road and exchange details before driving away from the scene, or arranging for your vehicle to be towed if it is too badly damaged to be driven.
Motorists whose vehicles have been towed will still be required to report accidents to police via the Police Assistance Line after they have left the scene.
Police event numbers will also no longer be issued for minor accidents which didn’t require a vehicle to be towed.
Insurance companies have stated that the new laws won’t change the claims process, and motorists involved in minor accidents should still contact them as soon as possible if they want to make a claim.
Does this mean people can get away with breaking the law?
With police currently attending every accident requiring towing, it is believed there is presently more chance that they will notice and investigate further if any concerns are apparent, rather than if they hear about the event over the phone later.
But it’s important to be aware that police will still be attending any accident in which someone has been injured or killed, and they can still be called if a driver appears to be drunk or under the influence of drugs at the scene.
The new laws may actually see a reduction in unnecessary and frivolous tickets for offences like negligent driving, while drivers who cause serious accidents through more dangerous driving behaviour will still be penalised.
These new laws are similar to laws that are already in place in other states, including the ACT, where police don’t attend minor accidents and motorists are required to report them to a dedicated phone service within 24 hours.
Overall, it’s expected that these new laws will reduce congestion caused by accidents and reduce further traffic accidents occurring as a result of blocked roads and motorists standing around waiting for the police.
Police resources will be freed up to work on road safety and traffic management programs to improve the safety of NSW roads into the future.