Hit and run or linger?

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Many people wrongly believe that drivers must stop immediately after a collision and those who do not are trying to get away.

Recently, a motorcycle crashed into a car at Pasir Gudang in Johor. The motorcyclist suffered severe injuries to her head, legs and hands, while the car driver was not injured in the collision.

But later, the 18-year-old driver sustained multiple injuries to his head, cheekbones and right leg, and his nose and fingers were broken after being attacked by a mob that assumed he had crashed into the 38-year-old woman motorcyclist.

The police have opened an investigation paper under Section 148 of the Penal Code for rioting and using dangerous weapons to cause injuries. A 61-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the assault and three more assailants are being sought.

Since 2013, I have written many published letters on what to do after a road accident. Sadly, the confusion over hit and run has resulted in drivers being assaulted for lingering instead of leaving the accident scene where people are injured.

A driver is deemed guilty if he flees the accident scene to evade being identified and held responsible for causing damage or injury. This is considered a crime in many countries. If the owner of the damaged property is not present, the driver is expected to leave a contact number.

In Malaysia, motorists ought to be better educated on how to react appropriately after a collision to avoid unnecessary quarrels and fights. Those that are quick to get off their vehicles to inspect the damage are easy victims of robbers and carjackers.

Many people wrongly believe that drivers must stop immediately after a collision and those who do not are trying to get away. However, the law only requires that a police report be lodged within 24 hours of the accident.

Should repairs cost several thousand ringgit or more, victims could make “own damage knock for knock” (OD-KFK) claim without losing the no claim discount (NCD) if the vehicle is under comprehensive cover. If not, third-party claims could be made as provided under the law.

Motorists must bear in mind that drivers of other vehicles are not obliged to pay compensation for damage caused by them. For minor collisions, the parties involved may opt for private settlement instead of spending long hours at the police station and possibly making return trips.

Those who offer compensation usually do so for minor dents, as it is inconvenient to run one or more trips to the police station. It is also more costly to pay up to RM300 for the compound fine, lose the NCD and possibly accumulating demerit points.

Alarmingly, many people demanded cash compensation without realising that the other party could refuse to pay and prefer to make use of their motor insurance cover. Those who forcibly insisted the other driver to cough up money on the spot could be arrested for extortion. Lengthy arguments have often led to nasty quarrels and fights.

Vehicles that are not immobilised after an accident should be driven away. Otherwise, they are bound to reduce traffic to a crawl. Rubbernecking drivers, particularly those driving past the opposite lane, are likely to cause more crashes.

When a collision occurs in moving traffic, there is no need to chase after the runaway vehicle. Those who are easily enraged by those who hit and run can turn minor incidents into major disasters.

Forcing the driver to stop would not only be foolish but against the law for driving at high speed, which is dangerous for both parties and other road users. If the fleeing car were to crash and its occupants injured, the driver of the chasing vehicle could be held responsible.

But if the vehicle were to stop, an argument or even violence would ensue. The cornered driver may emerge with a baseball bat to defend himself, and anything can happen when both enraged parties confront each other.

In 2018, two brothers chased a vehicle that had scraped their car’s bumper at Kuchai Avenue in Kuala Lumpur. After 400 metres, both cars came to a stop in standstill traffic. The brothers got down to inspect the damage but were attacked by a passenger from the other vehicle.

One brother was stabbed in the thigh while the other was punched in the face. Footage of the incident recorded on their car’s dashcam was uploaded and went viral on social media. It led to the arrest of the assailant, who was found in possession of drugs.

The media should be careful when describing hit-and-run accidents. If the public is made to believe that they must stop after an accident, it could result in many drivers getting beaten up by unruly individuals.

Often, it is wiser not to stop but drive straight to a police station when a motorcyclist, pillion rider or pedestrian is injured. Making a police report at the eleventh hour is not recommended, as any delay in doing so may give the impression that it was a hit and run.

However, should an accident occur along a deserted road, there is no excuse not to stop and rush the injured to the nearest clinic or hospital, regardless of who was at fault.

But it would be foolish to stay put where they are passing traffic or people in the vicinity, even though the driver may not be at fault. Bystanders can easily turn into an uncontrollable mob, and assault drivers involved in accidents.

Some passers-by do not consider they did not witness the collision. All they see is the injured writhing in pain or bleeding profusely. In anger, they lose control of themselves, resulting in drivers beaten to a pulp, and some have died, with the assailants charged for manslaughter.

For lingering at the accident scene, drivers have suffered grievous or fatal injuries needlessly, and have caused untold miseries to their loved ones. In addition, the assailants are behind bars while their families suffer in silence, all because of the fear of being accused of hit and run.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan from Petaling Jaya.