What To Do In Case Of An Accident In Bali?

Reading this article is like watching a disaster movie that you have already seen before. A picture with a hero whom you sincerely sympathize with and do not want this guy to get into trouble. But you know in advance that the threat is inevitable.
Yes, the hero will get into an accident. I promise you a bit of suspense and maybe even a happy ending. But first, let me tell you what could have been done to prevent the incident.
You arrive in Bali. Surely you know the traffic rules or at least have an idea of them. About the rights you use in your country and in other countries, which number over a hundred and fifty.
Be prepared for things to be different in Bali. Bali is like another planet. Starting with the fact that traffic here is left-hand drive, which you'll have to get used to. And ending with the fact that many drivers on the island often don't know the traffic rules.
I lived in Bali for seven years and it still seems to me that Indonesians drive on Bali according to some code composed of intuitive insights, human courtesy, hope that prayers will protect them, and an invisible communication similar to that which connected the heroes of the movie Avatar with their flying dragons.
There is a common belief that many Indonesians buy their licenses without any real lessons. And many don’t even buy them at all. That's why you see four schoolgirls on one bike. Such people may simply not understand that helmets are mandatory, that turn signals should be used when turning, and that driving too close to another vehicle is a danger.
When driving, Indonesians use non-verbal signals, subtle body movements, and eye gestures, a habit formed since the time when mothers would take their future drivers to the market, tying them to themselves with a sarong so they wouldn’t fall off the seat.
At an uncontrolled intersection, if you expect someone to yield to those on the right or left, you'll be mistaken. In traffic jams, drivers "squeeze through." They try to push through any small gap they can find. The right of way goes to those who squeeze through first or honk the most. This continues until a traffic officer appears and tries to sort out the traffic flow.
Drivers will yield to a motorbike carrying five gallons of water or a portable vegetable shop on wheels. This is because it's difficult for them, they are pitied, and after all, we are all human. The human aspect of many issues in Bali and Indonesia often prevails over strict rules.
Moreover, Indonesians believe they understand each other very well. From a European's perspective, this looks like pure telepathy.
So, if you weren't born in Indonesia, weren't raised on a motorbike saddle, and don't possess telepathic abilities, try to follow these rules to avoid an accident:
1. Don't drive fast at night. Even if you feel like a king or queen of driving, you might encounter a fateful black dog sleeping on the road.
2. Don't drive under the influence of alcohol. This needs no explanation. Our level of heroism when drunk is inversely proportional to our ability to drive straight.
3. Don't drive if you're tired or losing alertness. For example, after a night hike up a volcano, preceded by a sleepless day of preparations. Rest, drink coffee, rejuvenate, and wait until you feel alert enough to drive without closing your eyes for even a few seconds (oh, mom!!!).
4. Don't drive fast on unfamiliar roads. On many roads that have become familiar and dear to me over the past seven years, there are potholes that haven't been fixed for years. Every pile of gravel left after construction—I remember them by heart. But on unfamiliar roads, I creep along like a scout.
5. Don't drive fast during or after rain if you can't see what's under the puddles. Under the puddles, there might be a smooth asphalt road, or it might be a gateway to the underworld.
6. If you see a dog sleeping by the road, a child on a bench rocking back and forth almost falling onto the roadway, tourists playing tag, a guy on a bike chatting while driving, or an auntie on a bike staring at a shop window and turning her head nearly 180 degrees—honk. Whenever you have the choice to honk or not, just go ahead and honk. Later, you'll be glad you did.
Using the horn in Indonesia is not considered offensive. It doesn’t carry any hidden vulgar curses or insults directed at the other driver's family lineage up to the tenth generation grandmother. It’s simply a reminder: "Hey, dear fellow! Wake up and stay alert!"
I really liked one recommendation on a foreign forum, which will 100% make you a paranoid driver who never gets into accidents: "Expect the sudden appearance of anything from anywhere."
Whatever you see in front of you is your responsibility. A motorcyclist who jumps onto the main road you’re driving on assumes that you will notice him and that you will give him space or slow down. If you want to overtake someone, you should honk so the drivers ahead know you're about to overtake, otherwise they might suddenly shift to the right or left.
7. Don't ride without a helmet. It's beautiful and romantic when the wind plays with your hair and you're speeding towards adventure. But sometimes you can end up on an unpredictable trajectory. After finding myself under a crashed bike for the second time in my life, I was grateful to be wearing a helmet. I realized that nothing is more romantic than a head without traumatic brain injuries or concussions.
8. Keep your documents with you—vehicle registration, international driver's license, medical insurance, printed insurance policy details for your vehicle, and the contact information of your rental's owner. And pray that he turns out to be an honest guy who won't try to squeeze more money out of you in case of an accident.
Now we come to the moment where the hero is shown as a good guy—not perfect, but damn charming—a promising obstacle runner. Back home, his girlfriend, a PlayStation, and a Chihuahua are waiting for him. But the threat is relentless. An earthquake begins, a volcano erupts, aliens abduct him, a pyroclastic flow barrels down at 480 kilometers per hour, he dangles by a pinky over a 2000-meter-high chasm, and a blanket of molten lava covers him.
The accident has happened. This point has been crossed, and Ctrl+Z isn't an option. What to do?
Stop the vehicle and make sure you're not injured. Nothing is broken or dislocated. Your arm with the Patek watch is still attached to your body. If you realize you have serious injuries, try not to move until the ambulance arrives. Or at least move as minimally as possible.
Indonesians are generally very kind people who are inclined to help the injured. They may assist you in lifting the bike and moving to the side of the road.
But if you're gushing blood like a fountain and it's not very clear what to do with you, sometimes it's more realistic to get support from foreign tourists who may not be as afraid to undertake this dirty and bloody task of rescuing people.
Very often in accidents, there are two sides, and at this critical moment, the scales tip one way or the other. And this is very important. Because the one dubbed "Mr. Evil" will receive condemnation from witnesses, will explain himself to the police, hand over his documents and a certain sum of money, and will repair the damaged vehicle at his own expense.
"Mr. Evil" is defined by popular wisdom. Just as deeply and irreversibly popular as your grandmother's sayings like, "A well-fed horse doesn’t trot." So, who bears responsibility for this micro-armageddon on the road?
1. If a collision involves an Indonesian and a foreigner, the foreigner will be considered more at fault. You'll have to pay not only because they suspect you have a larger sum of money in your pocket, but also because they assume you lack the skills of traditional Indonesian driving telepathy.
2. The one who can communicate in a language understandable to the accident participants has a better chance of support. If you don't speak English or Indonesian but can dish out money, the latter function might be decisive.
3. If a collision involves a bike and a car, the car driver will also be considered more at fault simply because they were more protected.
4. The one who, after the collision, is standing, walking, talking, and not dead, is more at fault. Here's some bad advice that might help you: even if all your body parts are intact and the bruises that will bother you for a week haven't appeared yet, act like a victim. Show that you're in great pain and could ascend to the heavens at any moment. If you're a woman, be helpless and fragile, play on sympathy.
5. The driver of the vehicle that has turned into guacamole sauce after the accident is likely to receive sympathy. But again, idle onlookers, who ultimately don't care much, might collectively express the opinion that your bike was a bit old and probably already broken to begin with.
Weighing all these pros and cons, pluses and minuses, you can understand that your chances of getting out of the accident unscathed aren't so great.
If the matter can be resolved amicably, settle it amicably without involving the police. Don't express aggression towards the opponent, even if they are at fault. Look like the victim. But don't forget, while portraying your imminent demise, to photograph both the other party in the accident and the license plate of their vehicle simultaneously.
6. If you didn't have a dashcam at the time of the accident to prove your innocence, immediately after the accident, turn on your phone and record everything happening around you. The participants in the accident, witnesses, witnesses from nearby shops and warungs who could corroborate your innocence if necessary. Collect contacts of people who weren't injured but could provide testimony in your favor. Perhaps seeing your activity, the culprit of the accident will think twice about "cheating" you and understand that you'll prove the truth by any means necessary.
You have a hundred percent chance of easily and calmly obtaining compensation for medical treatment, bike repair, and even new jeans if you're a flower girl with a legal driver's license riding a bike, and he, the scoundrel, in his black jeep, knocked the bike with this girl and, on top of that, a Balinese family of four off the road into the ditch, including a pregnant woman and a nursing infant.
It was in this situation in 2011 that I received a sinister sum of 666,000 rupiahs for my bodily, bike-related, and emotional wounds. I didn't cast a spell. That's just how it added up on the receipts. And I even included my torn jeans in that amount.
If the threat of the police coming hangs over you, then hold on. The cards aren't in your hands if:
- You don't have an international driver's license.
- You don't have the STNK (vehicle registration certificate) for your vehicle.
- Your rental provider is shady and ready to take advantage of the situation to extort from you an amount that exceeds all damages in the accident by several times.
- You don't have a photocopy of your passport, and you're willing to hand over your original and only passport to the police for identification.
- You're flying out today or tomorrow and don't have time for bureaucratic procedures.
In this case, not only will you not receive compensation for damages, even if you're not at fault, but you might also end up with a very hefty fine. The technique of rounding up the fine amount upwards will surprise you greatly.
In such a situation, you might be saved by, for example, a police officer friend (unlikely), a personally acquainted village chief (also unlikely), parting with that hefty sum of money (very likely), an unknown and unexplained miracle (incalculable), good knowledge of English or Indonesian and understanding of driving rules (likely and necessary).
Your appeals to traffic rules, the Vienna Convention, and universal justice will be carefully and politely listened to by the police. More is not guaranteed.
But it's not all hopeless.
My last accident took a bad turn. A motorbike driven by a Balinese crashed into me as he emerged from an alley onto the opposite lane. While I was driving, he stood waiting by the roadside, but when I was about a meter away, he suddenly accelerated, crashing into me.
After the accident, I didn't collapse in tears, shouting that I was dying; I kept walking. He grabbed his leg and started yelling that I had broken his bike, and that he wouldn't be able to walk anymore. I took photos of him and his bike. As soon as I turned away for a moment, he fled, hobbling away on his injured leg, leaving behind his broken bike without a key, which I found on the road.
Kind people called the police, which I wasn't very happy about because I didn't have my STNK with me. The police helped me locate the perpetrator at his home, about 200 meters from the scene of the incident. He was lying in a gazebo with his leg smeared with crushed green algae. Every time I asked whether someone emerging onto the main road should look where they are going, he and his relatives theatrically glanced at the sky, then pointed at his algae-covered leg, saying, "Look what happened to him. He won't be able to work for a week. Who will pay for his treatment now?" The answer to the question "who?" in this play was already prepared.
At some point, I was already being associated with dark forces and invited to drive to the police station without my opponent. The respectable gentleman, while continuing to smear more algae onto his leg, acted out the approach of death with groans, but there were no corpses in the police station.
But on that day, only an inexplicable miracle saved me from bureaucratic hassle and paying for the pitiful acting skills of the kamikaze driver. A friend of the "victim" took me to a bike repair shop, where they installed a new rearview mirror, reattached the fallen front panel with the number, and replaced the broken headlight glass.
I wish for you to be saved by a miracle, by your knowledge of English or Indonesian, and by the rules of the road (emphasize as needed). But may it happen before giant boulders start falling on the hero of our story and a tsunami wave whirls them like a twig among debris of trees, buildings, and cars.
Please, be careful. And may your stay in Bali be peaceful and serene.
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