We all set out with the intention of a safe journey, but accidents happen and even the best drivers make mistakes or can fall victim to poor driving from other road users.
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in a situation where your vehicle has been involved in a collision, are you confident that you are aware of where you stand with the law and what you must do?
S170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 sets out the legal obligation of a driver who has been involved in an accident where damage is caused to another vehicle or some other property or injury caused to another person or to an animal (horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog).
You must stop your car at the scene of an accident where it is safe for you to do so and you are advised to remain at the scene for a reasonable period of time to comply with your obligations.
If there is a person at the scene who is reasonably involved with the other damaged vehicle or property, or injured person or animal, you have a duty to give your details including your name, address and registration number. If the car is registered to another person, you are obliged to also pass over their details. You may also choose to exchange telephone numbers but there is no legal requirement for you to do this.
Do I need to provide my Insurance Certificate?
If you cannot exchange your insurance details at the scene with the other person involved, you must produce your insurance certificate within 7 days to a police officer at the police station. You are advised to attend at the station local to the accident.
What if it is not safe to stop or I can’t find the owner?
Should you be involved in a collision you are legally obligated to stop your vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so and provide your details to the driver of the other vehicle, or owner of the property which has suffered damage.If you have stopped your car for a reasonable amount of time and have made reasonable efforts to ascertain the driver, which have been unsuccessful, then you must report the incident in person at the police station as soon as it is practical for you to do so, and in any event within 24 hours of its occurrence. This does not mean that you can wait 24 hours. You should also be wary that telephoning an officer is not technically discharging your duties either.
If it is dark, the road is quiet and you are alone you may not feel comfortable getting out of your vehicle. If you are wary, you may wish to call the police to see if an officer can attend. If they are attending, you may wish to sit in your car with the doors locked or park up close by under street lighting. If it isn’t safe to stay around, advise the police call handler that you are driving to a police station. In the event that the other driver reports you, it prevents wasted police time trying to locate you.
If the nature of the collision seems unusual, if the other driver is becoming aggressive towards you, or if you are being pressured to pay for the damage on the spot then the absolute last thing you should do is get out of your car and put yourself at risk. Insist on calling the police and wait in your vehicle with the doors locked until they arrive.
What to do if the accident seems unusual
We occasionally hear of vehicles being targeted by people in order to extract money, set up fake claims or even car jacking. To reduce the risks of finding yourself in one of these situations, keep an eye out for potential hazards and be very wary of erratic, unpredictable drivers or drivers with faulty brake lights, making sure that at all times you are leaving plenty of breaking space between you and the car in front. Never assume that if a driver flashes their headlights it is actually safe for you to pull out and don’t trust indicators; wait until you actually see a car turning before you proceed.
If you do find yourself in a situation that does not seem all that it appears then act cautiously. Take as many details as you can about the appearance of the driver, any distinguishing features, and details of the registration of the vehicle. If possible take photos of the scene. If there are any witnesses ask them whether they can provide their details to you and would be willing to make a statement. You should report everything to the police as soon as possible after the accident.
What happens if I do not comply with my legal duties?
If you fail to stop at the scene of an accident or report an accident to the police in line with your duties you may be charged with an offence of failing to stop/report and accident. This offence carries a minimal sentence of 5 penalty points and a fine however, depending on the circumstance of the accident this offence could give rise to a custodial sentence and a lengthy driving disqualification.
If you have been involved in an accident and are facing charges for leaving the scene or have any questions as to what your legal obligations are then please give us a call here at Keep Me On The Road on 0800 0463066. We are always happy to give you some initial free advice or set you up with an appointment with one of our expert solicitors.