Motorways are used by thousands of people throughout Ireland on a daily basis. They are generally a safe means of transport but accidents can happen for a number of reasons. Driving on a motorway can be different from driving on other roads due to the high speeds and volume of cars on the road. It is important that all drivers follow the rules of the road at all times to reduce the risk of accident and injury to both themselves and other road users. As a road user, you have a duty of care to ensure that you follow the rules of the road and do not act in a negligent manner. If you have been involved in a motorway accident that was the fault of another party you may be able to make a claim for damages and injuries you sustained. If it is shown that somebody did not adhere to these rules then they may become automatically liable for the accident.
Types of Motorway Accidents*
There are many types of motorway accidents all of which can lead to serious and at times fatal injuries. Making a claim against the party of fault essentially means claiming against their insurance, hence why it is essential that insurance and contact details are taken at the scene where possible. Some common types of accidents are:
Multi-car Pile Ups
Where an accident happens on a busy motorway, this could cause a chain reaction whereby the proceeding cars behind the accident may not have enough time to react to the situation and could end up causing a multiple vehicle accident. These types of crashes are also known as concertina collisions.
Where a person overtakes one or more vehicles without checking if safe to do so they could cause an accident. Accidents have been known to happen when a person overtakes another person on a bend without knowing what around that corner and they have enough room to do so. Undertaking (using the inside lane) is also a dangerous act as may lead to an accident. In both cases, over and undertaking, the driver who committed the act may be held liable for the accident.
Speeding or Tailgating Accidents
Speeding and driving too close to the car in front of you means that you are not keeping a safe distance from other drivers. In cases where the driver in front of you has to stop suddenly, the driver behind may cause an accident as they have not given themselves enough room and time to slow down.
Trucks and other heavy goods vehicles (HVGs) present their own set of risks when travelling on a motorway. Crosswinds, if strong enough may tip the vehicle over and if they are speeding they may be held liable for the accident in this case.
Where drivers do not heed road work warning signs and fail to slow down they can cause car crashes and injure other road users as well as the workers who are working on the motorway.
Vehicles With Faulty Brake Lights, Headlights or Indicators
Driving with faulty lights on your car is a dangerous act, especially when driving at night. If the car driving in front of you does not have working tail lights and they need to stop their car suddenly, they may not give you any warning and an accident may occur. The same can be said for cars who’s indicators or headlights are not working. In these cases, the car in front may be held liable for the accident.
Some of the common injuries sustained in motorway accidents include:
The speed limit on a motorway is 120km/h. As this is already a high speed driving faster than this is dangerous. Speeding is one of the most common causes of road traffic accidents.
It is three times more likely that an accident caused by driver fatigue will lead to a fatality. If you are tired it may be dangerous to get behind the wheel of a car. The RSA have an initiative in place to help overcome this issue. This initiative is Stop, Sip, Sleep. If you become tired while driving you should stop in a safe place, sip a caffeine drink and sleep for approximately 15-20 minutes. If you sleep for longer than this you may become more tired. You should also get some fresh air to wake yourself up.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
It is very dangerous to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This not only puts your own life at risk but also the lives of others. The legal limits for alcohol are 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood for fully licensed drivers and 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood for novice drivers.
Tailgating is the name given to driving too closely behind the vehicle in front. This can be very dangerous as you will not have enough braking distance to stop which may lead you to crash into the vehicle in front. You should make sure that you are at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front to give yourself enough braking distance.
Debris and Hazards on the Road
You should always be attentive of debris and hazards on the road. You may need to change lanes in order to avoid these obstacles. You should not try to move these hazards yourself as this can be dangerous due to the high speeds that cars travel at on the motorway.
Poor Driving and Weather Conditions
Poor weather conditions can make it harder to drive on the motorway. Rain and snow can make road surfaces slippery so it is advised that you drive at a slower speed. You should also keep a larger distance between your vehicle and the one in front. This should be a distance of at least four seconds.
What to do after a road traffic accident?
Following a road traffic accident, whether as a driver, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist, there are a number of steps you should follow:
Seek medical attention
Your health is your wealth and should be your first priority. Immediately after a road traffic accident, take a second to assess yourself to determine if you have any injuries. Then check if any passengers or anybody else involved in the accident need medical attention. If you or anyone else involved has sustained a serious injury ensure that you contact an ambulance to attend the scene.
For minor injuries, you must remember that minor injuries where you ‘feel fine’ could progress to a more serious injury in the future. In this case it is always better to be safe than sorry and advisable that you go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) or local GP to be checked out.
Gather all relevant information at the scene
It is important that you gather all the relevant information in connection with your accident:
- Details of another driver(s)/people involved: name, address, contact information, vehicle registration number and vehicle insurance information. You can also offer your own information to the others involved in the accident.
- Name and contact details of any emergency service workers at the scene – paramedic/Gardaí.
- Take a picture of the scene and damage to all vehicles involved from different angles; this will help your solicitor understand how the accident happened.
- If there are any CCTV recordings of the accident, such as CCTV cameras in a nearby shop, for example, you should try to obtain this footage.
- Dash Cam footage – if you have any.
- Record the time and date of the accident.
- Weather conditions at the time.
- Receipt for repairs of damage to your vehicle.
- If possible, try to collect the contact details of anybody that witnessed the accident. This may be of use if you do decide to pursue a road traffic accident claim.
Report the incident to the Gardaí
Regardless of how minor or serious the road traffic accident was, it is important that you call the Gardaí to report the accident immediately.
For minor accidents, the Gardaí may tell you that they will not be attending the scene. In this scenario, the appropriate information should be exchanged. In these cases, it is also important that you visit your nearest Garda station to request that they take details of the accident and to take your statement about the accident.
For more serious road traffic accidents, where an ambulance has been called, the Gardaí may arrive at the scene to assess, take statements from the people involved and any witnesses.
Contact your insurance company
If you are the driver of the vehicle involved in a road traffic accident it is important to inform your own insurance company so they have a record of the accident.
Speak to a road traffic accident solicitor
If you are considering moving forward with a road traffic accident claim for any personal injuries sustained it is advisable that you speak with a road traffic accident claims solicitor as soon as possible. If you are proceeding with a claim, the first step will be submitting your claim to the Injuries Board for assessment. A road traffic accident solicitor can help you in preparing your application to the Injuries Board and ensure that you follow the process in the correct format, meaning that you can move forward with your claim quickly without unnecessary delays.
It is important to remember to keep copies of any expenses that you have incurred as a result of the accident. It is also imperative to retain copies of medical reports or Garda reports, where possible as you will need them when making a claim.