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Legal Rules If Involved in a Traffic Accident

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 13 Jun 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Failing To Stop Drivers Police

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 Accident

Failing 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 Police

There 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 Accident

As 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 Accident

There 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 Report

Failure 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.

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[Add a Comment]
Is there anything you can do about a 3rd party hitting your car and driving off, when you are not in the vehicle, if you have a witness that saw it happen.
Ktails - 13-Jun-18 @ 11:31 PM
It’s a joke! Police seem more bothered about charging people for leaving the scene than charging those who actually caused it. Mitigating circumstances ie agreesion from other people involved or even assault don’t seem to cut it either. So some t**t with a license can cause an accident, try and assault you and just because you tried to get away, you’re charged for it. Pathetic.Accidents don’t happen in tbe same way the ridiculous road rules are created in this country so the police should stop making some sort of order out of it all, and do some proper investigating to find out what caused it in tbe first place!
Smithy1 - 9-Jun-18 @ 6:59 PM
What is the position regarding a passenger leaving the scene of an accident where the vehicle they were in has caused death/serious injury.
Bluebev - 3-Jun-18 @ 3:56 PM
A driver crashed into me, punched me then drove off, I followed him, but in the process I went through two red lights that had just changed. He then stopped and attacked me again, this time trying to take the dash cam that recorded the whole incident. Worried about showing the footage to the police and getting done for jumping the lights.
Gizmo - 17-May-18 @ 12:38 AM
Hi i was involved in a RTC where i was cautioned for careless driving, pulled out of a junction where two motorbikes were coming and i didnt see them, the first guy on the biker swerved and the other put his hands up in furstration and came off the bike broke his wrist and damage to his bike but not my car... have you any advice? will i have to go to court? or will i just have expensive insurance? whats the most likely outcome in this case please? very worried and upset
b5252626 - 4-May-18 @ 9:24 PM
Trent - Your Question:
A few weeks ago a van driver driving dangerously drove in to the back of me while I was stationary and then drove off without saying anything. I got photos of the passenger, sign written van and number plate. I called the police at the time and filed a report online. Had a call from the police to say that unless the crash is on cctv and they can read the number plate, they will not do anything about the three offences he has committed. I told the police that they only have to ask his insurance company if he reported it within 24 hours to prove one offence and that there will be evidence on camera at another location of his dangerous driving shortly before but they claim this doesn't prove anything.They also did not visit him on the day it was reported to see if he was drunk or otherwise. Instead if visiting him and and asking what happened to see what he admits, they have jumped straight to what they think CPS will say without any evidence.

Our Response:
We can't really advise on the way the police work, except that they do need to have sufficient evidence before a case can proceed to court.
NoPenaltyPoints - 30-Apr-18 @ 12:00 PM
A few weeks ago a van driver driving dangerously drove in to the back of me while I was stationary and then drove off without saying anything. I got photos of the passenger, sign written van and number plate. I called the police at the time and filed a report online. Had a call from the police to say that unless the crash is on cctv and they can read the number plate, they will not do anything about the three offences he has committed. I told the police that they only have to ask his insurance company if he reported it within 24 hours to prove one offence and that there will be evidence on camera at another location of his dangerous driving shortly before but they claim this doesn't prove anything. They also did not visit him on the day it was reported to see if he was drunk or otherwise. Instead if visiting him and and asking what happened to see what he admits, they have jumped straight to what they think CPS will say without any evidence.
Trent - 28-Apr-18 @ 12:46 PM
Anonymous - Your Question:
My Daughter was involved in a minor bump, other party stopped, driver left the scene in a hurry, but the passenger gave his details, whats the laws position on this?

Our Response:
The driver stopped at the scene, his contact details etc were passed to your daughter (the other party) ...the driver therefore met his obligations unless there is something else which you've not made clear.
NoPenaltyPoints - 20-Apr-18 @ 3:20 PM
My Daughter was involved in a minor bump, other party stopped, driver left the scene in a hurry, but the passenger gave his details, whats the laws position on this?
Anonymous - 18-Apr-18 @ 5:54 PM
Deano1962 - Your Question:
I was in my works van 4 Weeks ago & went into the back of a vehicle which brakes for no reason. Obviously I’m to blame I hit him. The driver got out limping claiming injuries etc when we exchanged details. It was obvious a huge insurance claim was going to be pursued. I informed Work who assured “We are insured” After almost a month I’ve had a phonecall from the Police who are issuing me with a ticket for driving without due care and attention. Apparently the driver informed them with details which help his claim. Can the police do this without witnessing the incident? What are my options I’m worried

Our Response:
If someone claims they are injured, the police should be contacted at the time of the incident. It might be worth seeking professional legal advice on this.
NoPenaltyPoints - 11-Apr-18 @ 3:13 PM
I was in my works van 4 Weeks ago & went into the back of a vehicle which brakes for no reason. Obviously I’m to blame I hit him. The driver got out limping claiming injuries etc when we exchanged details. It was obvious a huge insurance claim was going to be pursued. I informed Work who assured “We are insured” After almost a month I’ve had a phonecall from the Police who are issuing me with a ticket for driving without due care and attention. Apparently the driver informed them with details which help his claim. Can the police do this without witnessing the incident? What are my options I’m worried
Deano1962 - 11-Apr-18 @ 2:56 PM
I was involved in a crash yesterday, other driver at fault fled the scene. Witnesses managed to get licence plate and they are not insured. The police don't seem to bothered about my case and won't be taking my statement for another couple of weeks. Is this normal? The other driver continues to drive round recklessly without insurance....I'm baffled they are not pursuing quicker, in fact, they gave the impression they are not interested at all. What's the point in doing things right??
Stacey - 17-Mar-18 @ 5:08 PM
A member of staff was driving drunk in a company car and flipped the vehicle over. He was due to work that same morning for 6am so then decidedly called his 'boss' at 2.30am. The boss picked up his car with a loader truck and gave the drunk man a lift home. Would this have been classed as a road accident? I am unsure if any other vehicle or property was damaged. So let's remove that possibility.
Kit - 12-Mar-18 @ 5:55 PM
My husband had an RTA (front end write off).The other driver failed to stop and subsequently failed to report to his insurance company.Both are serious offences.Warwickshire Police Traffic Unit are not taking any action against the other driver.So I guess if while in Warwickshire you smash up someone else’s car and there are no independent witnesses,just drive away and don’t report it to anyone.The police traffic department cannot be bothered to do anything about it anyway
Rufus - 7-Mar-18 @ 6:11 PM
ks - Your Question:
HiA car went into the back of my parked car during heavy snow fall. They didn't stop but 2 witnesses came and gave me the reg plate. I contacted the police straight away. The next day I located the car that hit me so we agreed to sort things out amongst our selves. I then contacted the police and explained the situation. Will the other driver still get points/fine or even imprisonment even though I have contacted the police to tell them we have exchanged details???thanks

Our Response:
This depends whether the there was any evidence of dangerous or careless driving. If it was just an accident they won't prosecute.
NoPenaltyPoints - 7-Mar-18 @ 2:53 PM
Hi A car went into the back of my parked car during heavy snow fall. They didn't stop but 2 witnesses came and gave me the reg plate. I contacted the police straight away. The next day i located the car that hit me so we agreed to sort things out amongst our selves. I then contacted the police and explained the situation. Will the other driver still get points/fine or even imprisonment even though i have contacted the police to tell them we have exchanged details??? thanks
ks - 6-Mar-18 @ 7:10 PM
I had an accident about a year ago and its still in dispute of liability, I was coming on a slip road which turned into a lane to get off (in which I was staying in) there was heavy traffic to my right with people trying to force their way into my lane, this vehicle pulled out on me causing me to collide into the front of her vehicle. I've been told its the lady's fault as I was already in the lane and continuing in that lane. Do people agree it is her fault or would it be my fault for not stopping in time? Thanks
Jaime - 6-Mar-18 @ 10:13 AM
I was in a que of traffic at some traffic lights when the lights turned green. The person in front was indicating to turn right.. As everyone set of to go the person in front of me stopped suddenly and I bumped their car.. it was very minor. I raised my hands but the car continued to proceed right. As it was only minor I thought nothing much of it and so continued home. I received a visit from the police a couple of weeks later and made a statement and thought that was the end. Today I opened a letter and have to attend a court hearing as it is being treated as a hit and run. Does anyone have any advice on how to handle this or am I doomed for disqualification even though the incident was nothing serious?
stilo97 - 23-Feb-18 @ 4:01 PM
If there’s a road accident and the following road is closed I turn round on the dual carriageway as traffic has stopped for an hour and people and police are going the other way to get out I then decide to go the same way as everyone else policeman stops and tells me I will get a letter for magistrates court for driving other way on dual carriageway what will happen?
Anonymous - 7-Feb-18 @ 7:14 PM
Max - Your Question:
My partner hit railings while come off a roundabout, railings were damaged so they moved car to a safe place and went home car had just ran out on mot , police are charging with leaving the scene and no mot and damage to railings , what is she looking at getting ? I.e points, etc ?

Our Response:
We don't know what the charge for the railing repair will be obviously. The other penalty will depend on the charges brought (e.g careless driving-could carry an unlimited fine/discretionary ban, 3 to 9 points etc).Driving with no MOTcan attract a £1000 fine.
NoPenaltyPoints - 30-Jan-18 @ 3:35 PM
My partner hit railings while come off a roundabout, railings were damaged so they moved car to a safe place and went home car had just ran out on mot , police are charging with leaving the scene and no mot and damage to railings , what is she looking at getting ? I.e points, etc ?
Max - 29-Jan-18 @ 3:42 PM
As a passenger in a car involved in an accident is there an obligation for me to remain at the scene? Or report the accident / give my details? At the time i was asleep in the back seat so didn’t actually see anything but merely shaken awake by the sharp breaking.
Briannn - 28-Jan-18 @ 7:57 PM
My missus clipped a wing mirror of an oncoming car, she was on her own and was about to pull over when the other driver turned around and started acting extremely aggressive towards her, she drove to a public space to hand over details but he just sped off without stopping. She reported it to the police straight away with what happened and just how scared she was of the other driver. What does the law say when you believe you are in personal danger from the other driver?
Jezza - 17-Jan-18 @ 12:06 PM
My friend bumped into the back of someone. Minimal damage, he hit her tow bar. They got out and exchanged details. Then the other driver called the police (for a minor accident). My friend left before the police arrived. Now they are trying to charge him for fleeing a scene of an RTA. What sort of penalities can he expect? Even though he did exchange his details.
Anomonous - 25-Dec-17 @ 11:30 AM
Can any one tell me about a minor accident which I hit a car in front of me like touching it after the accident I stopped and saw another car and which no damage happened on both cars and took another car image without even scratching but another car's driver asked for my details but I refused and left the incident , few days later I received a letter from police saying that I have been alleged to have committed offense because they heard I didn't stop after the accident and refused to give my details but the fact is I stopped after the accident but refused to give my details. And also I was asked to write my details in the form which police sent me and I filled in the form and also I attached the image with the letter and sent it back to police
Nbl - 17-Dec-17 @ 7:41 PM
My wife was overtaking a tractor and trailer on a straight piece of road at about 50mph, the tractor driver decides to turn right into a field resulting in the accident. Our car has a wheel shaped indentation in the grill and bonnet and has been written off. My wife says there was no sign of any indication that he was turning right as she passed him. She was taken to hospital and kept in for 3 days for observation and tests for internal injurys. The tractor driver claims he indicated but obviously failed to look in his mirror before turning right. We have spoken to an indipendant witness who says after my wife was taken away with the ambulance the tractor driver makes the excuse his tyre is starting to deflate and removes it from the scene of the accident prior to the police arriving. Our insurance company have said there was no damage to the tractor and it was just our vehicle that sustained damage. I am more inclined to believe the fact that he moved the vehicle from the scene to ensure his lights on the trailer were either connected or repaired so that they were working.
Yuler - 21-Oct-17 @ 4:49 AM
the law is a joke police do not care about victim run over by vehicle, even when leaving the scene without insurance details. driver lied to police only on the phone to them they never spoke face to face with him. they did manage to get him to pay me cash towards repair of my bicycle on condition driver can avoid going through his insurance and no charges foor him. i was in shock at the accident that day and how driver was abusive to me before fleeing i was angry shocked not abusive yet the police used my anger to help drivet get away with all offences. ill never trust policeor feel safe again i have to move from area i feel. police are so corrupt more helpful to driver than person he run over.
hell - 15-Sep-17 @ 12:19 PM
So I was on my way home, two sleeping kids (4&1) in the car. There where two cars parked adjacent to each other and I was driving in between them when a taxi decided to also squeeze through. He hit my wing mirror and broke it. He didn't stop so I have phoned the taxi company for his details. They are going to find out who the driver was and call me back. Can I report this to the police. Is failing to stop at an accident a criminal offence? Can I get him prosecuted? I feel like he needs to be made an example of. This particular company always have drivers speeding and cutting people up in my town?!!
Char - 26-Aug-17 @ 7:09 PM
My Pomerania and his dog walker got his on the zebra crossing and the guy didn't even stop to look back. The lady sprained her wrist and is still in shock and my dogs had surgery for his broken leg and is in hospital for at least 3 days. The woman lives in front of the zebra crossing and cctv shows the car speeding off but not of him hitting them. We found the car parked in the area but police have done nothing. I'm so angry!
Jacira91 - 22-Aug-17 @ 5:03 PM
Tictac - Your Question:
My son had an accident where he hit a car in the early hours of the morning. He did not know who the car belonged to and left the scene. He reported it to the police, made a statement and both cars were fixed through I insurers. Three months later he had a letter to go to court. Will he need a solicitor?

Our Response:
We don't know the details of the charges so it's difficult to comment. Tell your son to look for a free first consultation with a solicitor to gauge the need.
NoPenaltyPoints - 28-Jul-17 @ 2:37 PM
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