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Traffic Accidents in the Australian Capital Territory

Written by Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

The main laws that deal with traffic accidents in the Australian Capital Territory are the  Road Transport (Safety & Traffic Management) Act 1999 (the Act) the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Regulation 2000 and the Australian Road Rules. The Act defines a traffic accident as including not only a collision or accident between vehicles, but also one that is between a vehicle and an animal in which a person dies or is injured, property is damaged, or an animal in someone’s care is injured or dies.

All drivers involved in a traffic accident are required to stop immediately and stay for as long as it takes for them to comply with all of their obligations.

Drivers’ duties

Those things that a driver must do after a traffic accident in the A.C.T. are similar to those that must be done by drivers in every other Australian state. All drivers involved in a traffic accident are required to stop immediately and stay for as long as it takes for them to comply with all of their obligations. They must check if anyone is injured, and if so, they must offer any assistance that they can. If necessary, emergency services such as police, ambulance or fire brigade should be called.

The drivers/riders are required to exchange their particulars. This includes their names and addresses as well as the registration numbers of the motor vehicles. The particulars of the owner of the vehicle must also be given, if the driver is not the owner. It is also advisable to check if the other drivers are insured and if so to exchange details of respective insurance covers.

If the police come to the accident scene then the drivers must also give their particulars to them. If the police don’t attend the scene, every driver involved in the collision must report the accident to the police as soon as possible (but within 24 hours after the accident) unless there are extraordinary circumstances that prevent them from doing so. These reporting requirements can be satisfied by using the Crash Report Form. The form is available on the Canberra Connect website.

When police will attend an accident

The police will attend a traffic accident if it results in the death of a person or if a person is injured and needs to be taken for medical treatment. They will also attend if one or more of the vehicles involved are blocking the roadway and cannot be moved or are causing a disruption to the flow of traffic. They should be called to the scene if there is a threat of danger to any person or a likelihood of a breach of the peace or if there is an allegation that alcohol or drug use is a contributing factor to the accident. 

If the vehicles involved in a collision need to be towed, but are not blocking the roadway, the drivers can arrange their own tows if they wish.  The police can arrange tows from a Towing Roster if the owner or driver is unable to arrange to tow the vehicle, or is not present at the scene, or is injured and unable to arrange a towing firm. If the police are needed at the scene, they can be called on 131 444.

Failing to stop & assist after accident

If a person is killed or injured in a traffic accident on a road or road related area the driver of a vehicle, or rider of an animal, must stop immediately and give any assistance that they can and that is required. There is a fine of up to $30,000.00 (200 penalty units) and imprisonment for up to 2 years if the driver fails to do so.

Other offences

It is an offence for a driver to fail to give their particulars to the police, or any owners of property damaged in the accident (including the other vehicles) and to any injured people. If the police do not know who the driver of the vehicle was, they can ask the vehicle’s owner or any other person to tell them the identity of driver. That person must give any information that they can give that may lead to the identification of the driver.  It is a defence to a charge for this offence if the person can prove that they did not know and could not with reasonably have found out the driver’s name and home address.

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