In a previous article we looked in detail at the potential penalties for failing to stop and/or report an accident. In brief, you could: be sent to prison for up to 6 months, be fined an unlimited amount, be given between 5-10 penalty points, be disqualified from driving, and/or have your vehicle seized. But what does the law say you have to do to avoid a conviction for failing to stop and/or report an accident if you are unlucky enough to be involved in a crash?
The relevant law comes from the Road Traffic Act (and associated cases). However, it is clear that this piece of law only applies to certain accidents:
1. Firstly, your vehicle must have played some role in the accident. This role does not need to be a large one: merely being present on the road and causing someone to swerve, for example, could be sufficient. Importantly, the accident does NOT need to happen on the public highway – if the accident occurs in any public place (such as a supermarket car park, for example) then the relevant rules will still apply.
2. The accident must also result in some form of damage. Someone other than yourself must be injured, or damage must be caused to either (i) another vehicle, (ii) property which forms part of the land in the vicinity of the accident, (iii) or to certain animals (including horses, cattle, donkeys, sheep, pigs, goats and dogs – but not cats).
Assuming you are involved in such an accident, what must you do?
1. Stop immediately
The first thing you have to do is stop immediately (providing it is safe to do so). One driver carried on driving for 80 yards, performed a U-turn, returned to the scene, and was still found guilty of failing to stop.
2. Stay at the scene
You must stay at the scene of the accident for a “reasonable time”. This is to give anyone who wants to ask you for information about the accident the opportunity to do so. You are not, however, obliged to actively search for people who may want to ask you for information.
3. Provide name and address, and identify your vehicle
If you are asked to provide your name and address and your registration number by either (a) a constable, or (b) someone who has “reasonable grounds” for requesting this information (such as the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident), you must provide it. You must also give the name and address of the owner of the vehicle if this is not yourself: this is particularly important if you are driving a company or pool car. If you fail to do any of these things, you will commit an offence.
Additionally, if you do not provide the required information at the scene of the accident, you must report the accident to the police. (See point 5 below.)
4. Produce insurance certificate (if someone is injured)
If someone other than yourself is injured during the accident, you must also provide evidence that your vehicle is validly insured. This must be provided, at the scene of the accident, to either (a) a constable, or (b) someone who has reasonable grounds for asking for this information. If you do not (or cannot) provide this evidence at the scene of the accident, you must report the accident to the police. (See point 5 below.)
Following the accident, you will have a maximum of 24 hours to provide evidence of insurance to the police by attending a police station, or showing it to a constable. Failing to do this is an offence. There are some narrow fact-specific exceptions to this rule, but it is always best to provide the information at the scene of the accident, or within 24 hours.
5. Report the accident to the police (in certain circumstances)
The points outlined above show that you must report the accident to the police if you fail to provide any of the following at the scene of the accident:
(i) Your name and address;
(ii) The name and address of the owner of the vehicle (if different);
(iii) The registration number of your vehicle; and
(iv) (If someone other than yourself is injured) evidence that your vehicle is insured.
Failing to report the accident to the police in any of these circumstances is an offence. Importantly, in most cases, reporting the accident to the police must be done in person: simply telling the police about the accident over the phone was held to be insufficient in one case.
It is also important to note that police attendance at the scene of the accident does not excuse a driver from any of the rules outlined in this article: the relevant information must still be provided, and (if you fail to provide this information) the accident must still be formally reported even if the police have attended.
There are, of course, a number of exceptions and defences which relate to all of the rules outlined above. If you are involved in an accident and are concerned about facing a conviction for failing to stop and/or report the accident, please call us immediately – we will be more than happy to discuss your case and advise you on what to do next.
The contents of this article should not be relied upon in isolation. Each case is fact specific and this article should not be treated as legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice.