Legal Rules If Involved in a Traffic Accident
In the UK it is an offence if a driver fails to stop if involved in a traffic accident. The punishment for this offence can be severe, and drivers should be aware of the legal rules if involved in a traffic accident.
Failing to Stop at the Scene of an AccidentFailing to stop if involved in an accident is considered a very serious offence by the courts. In fact, failure to stop and failure to report an accident are both serious traffic offences. Any driver who is involved in a traffic accident and does not exchange details with the other driver can face prosecution. Drivers who have been involved in an accident have a legal obligation to stop and identify themselves. This is the case whether the driver actually caused the accident or not.
Reporting a Road Traffic Accident to the PoliceThere may be reasons why a driver has failed to stop at the scene of an accident. This could be due to the other driver becoming hostile. If this is the case then the driver should report the accident to the police within 24 hours. Even if the driver has reported the accident after failing to stop they can still be charged. It will then be up to the courts to decide whether or not the driver was correct in leaving the scene.
What Constitutes a Road Traffic Accident?A driver does not have to be involved in an accident with another vehicle for it to be considered a road traffic accident. Damage to property, hitting furniture on the road or an animal can all constitute road traffic accidents. Many drivers are unaware that these situations can be classed as road traffic accidents. The courts will not usually view lack of knowledge of what constitutes a road traffic accident as a defence. The courts may assess the validity of why the driver left the scene of the accident when making their decision.
Punishments for Leaving or Failing to Report a Road Traffic AccidentAs two of the more serious road traffic offences there are severe punishments involved if the driver is found guilty. Failure to stop at the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident can both result in driving disqualifications. Both of these offences can result in the driver having up to 10 penalty points applied to his or her licence. A fine of up to £5000 can also be applied. Drivers found guilty of either of these traffic offences can also be sentenced to up to six months in prison, although this is rare.
Legal Obligations When Involved in a Traffic AccidentThere are a number of legal rules for those who are involved in a traffic accident including:
- Anyone involved in a traffic accident must stop at the scene
- Drivers should identity themselves to other drivers involved
- Personal details and insurance details should be exchanged whether a collision was involved or not
- If an accident did occur, name and address details must be exchanged regardless of who caused the accident
- Drivers who do not stop at the scene must report the accident to the police within 24 hours
- Failure to report will have occurred if a driver fails to report an accident within 24 hours
- A driver who fails to stop but then returns to the scene can still be found guilty of failing to stop
- Reports to the police will be required in person; a telephone call will not be sufficient
Legal Representation if Charged with Failing to Stop or ReportFailure to stop if involved in an accident and failure to report an accident are very serious offences. Both of these offences can come with severe punishment and legal representation should always be taken if charged. If a driver is charged with both of these offences a lawyer may be able to have one of the charges dropped, in some cases both. Having legal representation can also help to limit the chances of a disqualification.
It is the legal duty of a driver to stop if involved in a traffic accident or to report that an accident has taken place. Prison sentences are very rare for this type of offence and disqualifications will come under the court’s discretion. Driver’s who are found guilty will have between 5 and 10 penalty points applied to their licence.