Failing to Stop or Report an Accident FAQs

Where can I find the law?

The offences of failing to stop and failing to report an accident are in section 170 Road Traffic Act 1988.

Your obligations

What do I have to do if I have an accident?

If you are driving a vehicle that is involved in an accident and any of these things happen:

  • Injury to anyone
  • Damage to another vehicle
  • Damage to an animal that is not in your vehicle (or trailer)
  • Damage to property

You have to stop and give these details to anyone who reasonably asks for them.

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • The name of the owner of the vehicle
  • The address of the owner of the vehicle
  • The vehicle registration

If it is not possible to stop and give your details for a good reason then you have to report the accident in person to a police station or to a police officer. You must make the report as soon as possible and within 24 hours at the most.

There is an extra requirement when there has been an injury. You must provide your insurance certificate at the scene. If you can’t then you have to report the accident to the police.

The only person injured was my passenger. Do I still have to stop and/or report?

Yes you do. The rules are exactly the same for passengers of your vehicle as they are for people in other vehicles or pedestrians. If there is no damage to any other vehicle/property and no injury to anyone else then the only person who you would have to give your details to is your passenger.

I was the only one injured. What do I have to do?

If the only thing that happened was injury to you then there is no need to stop or report. But if any to the other things (damage or injury) then you stop and report as normal.

Do I have to report every accident to the police?

No. Provided you stop and give your details to the other driver, anyone who was injured and the owner of any property/animals that were damaged there is no need to call the police at all with one exception. That exception is: if someone was injured and you do not show them your insurance certificate. In that case you must report the accident to the police and show them your insurance certificate. If the police attend you can nominate a police station and produce your insurance certificate there within 7 days.

The accident was not my fault. Do I still have to stop?

Yes. Once an accident occurs involving your vehicle you must stop. It makes no difference whose fault it was.

Damage to animals? What if I ran over a snail?

You can run over as many snails as you like. The law only applies to horses, cattle, asses, mules, sheep, pigs, goats or dogs. Bad news if you are a cat or a hamster.

Do I have to stop even if the accident is minor?

Yes. If there is any damage or injury – even the slightest you have to stop.

Do I have to stop if there was no damage or injury?

No. You do not have to stop if there has been no damage or injury. Be careful though, if you notice damage later you should report. You should also check to see if there has been damage or injury. You can’t just drive off and assume that everything is OK.

If I have an accident parking is it OK of I leave a note under the other driver’s windscreen wiper?

The law says that you must stop and give your details to anyone who reasonably asks for them. If there is nobody around, you don’t have to wait for ever. But you do have to go to the police in person and report the accident.

Leaving a note in the other car’s windscreen is not enough in the eyes of the law. You need to report. In practice, it is extremely rare for someone who leaves their details in a note to be prosecuted. But it could happen.

I didn’t realise that I had an accident at the time but now I have found some damage on my vehicle. What should I do?

You should report the accident to the police as soon as possible. You must report in person to a police station or to a police officer.

I was too frightened to stop. What should I do?

If there is a genuine threat to your safety that will be a defence to failing to stop after an accident. You should report the accident to the police straight away by going to a police station or speaking to a police officer. A phone call is not enough.

I stopped after an accident but there was nobody there to give my details to. Have I broken the law?

No you haven’t. If there was some damage but there wasn’t anyone to give details to then you can leave. You are not obliged to search for the a person to give details to. You can leave but you must report the accident at a police station in person or to a police officer in person.

How do I report the accident. Is it OK to report it to the police by telephone?

No. The law says that you must report in person to a police station or to a police officer.

I called the police and they told me that I didn’t need to report the accident. Is that OK?

This is a strange one. The law says that you must report in person – not on the telephone. If the police have told you that you do not need to go to a police station then it is very unlikely that you will be prosecuted for failing to report. You could probably rely on what the police told you as a defence – keep a record of the time of the call and who you spoke to. If you are in doubt, go to a police station as well.

How long do I have to stop for? What if nobody comes?

The requirement is to stop and give details to anyone who reasonably requires them. You just need to stay for long enough for that to happen. There is no set amount of time. If the case went to court they would ask whether the amount of time that you waited was sufficient to allow someone to obtain details.

Do I have to search for the owner of the other car or the owner of property that was damaged?

No there is no obligation for you to search. If nobody is around then you need to report the accident to the police.

Police investigation

The police want to interview me. What should I do?

Ask a solicitor. You are entitled to free and independent legal advice for a police interview. A solicitor with a contract with the Ministry of Justice can deal with the case under the legal aid scheme.

The police might want you to attend for an interview as a volunteer. That means that you do not have to go. Be careful though. You can be arrested for failing to stop or report an accident. If you do not co-operate with a voluntary interview there is a risk that you might be arrested to be interviewed.

I have received a letter from the police asking me to identify the driver for failing to stop and failing to report an accident. What should I do?

This sounds like a notice served under section 172 Road Traffic Act 1988. You are obliged to reply to the notice and give the name of the driver. Failing to give details can mean 6 penalty points and a fine. See this post for more details.

The police didn’t send me a notice of intended prosecution for failing to stop or failing to report. Can I still be prosecuted?

Yes they can. If there has been an accident then the police do not have to send you a notice of intended prosecution.

The police sent me a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) more than 14 days after the accident. Can I still be prosecuted?

Yes they can. Normally the police had to send a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) to the registered keeper within 14 days of the incident. But when there has been an accident there is no need for them to send an NIP at all so you can’t complain if it is late.

Decision to prosecute and alternatives

Can I go on a driver improvement course instead of going to court?

No. The police do not offer a course as an alternative to a Magistrates’ Court prosecution.

Can the police give me a fixed penalty instead of going to court?

No. You cannot be given a fixed penalty for failing to stop or report an accident.

Will the police definitely send my case to court?

The police usually ask 2 questions before someone is prosecuted:

  1. Is there sufficient evidence to prosecute
  2. Is it in the public interest to prosecute

Provided that there is strong enough evidence to support a case they will normally find that it is in the public interest to prosecute.

Court cases

I have received a postal requisition. Do I have to go to court?

It depends. A court can deal with a case of failing to stop or report in your absence. You can write in with a guilty plea and they might sentence you without you being there. In practice most courts will adjourn the case and order you to attend. Then they will issue a warrant for your arrest if you don’t go to the adjourned hearing.

What is the worst that can happen at court?

The maximum sentence for failing to stop or report an accident is 6 months in prison. They will also impose 5-10 penalty points and can disqualify you from driving. Magistrates have guidelines that they follow and in practice it is rare for a prison sentence to be imposed. (See the next question)

What sentence will I get for failing to stop or failing to report an accident?

It depends on the facts of the case. Magistrates have sentencing guidelines. The guideline for failing to stop or report an accident is on page 127. The scenarios in the guidelines do not cover every case but they will give you an idea of the kind of thing that a court will be looking at.

  • Minor damage/injury or stopped at scene but failed to exchange particulars or report: Band B fine AND 5-6 penalty points
  • Moderate damage/injury or failed to stop and failed to report: Band C fine AND 7 – 8 points or consider disqualification
  • Serious damage/injury and/or evidence of bad driving: Starting point of a high level community order with a range of a Band C fine to 26 weeks custody AND disqualify 6 – 12 months or 9 – 10 points

A Band B fine is usually 100% of weekly take home pay. A Band C fine is usually 150% of weekly take home pay.

Will I get penalty points for failing to stop or failing to report an accident?

Yes you will get 5-10 penalty points depending on the seriousness of the case. In the most serious cases you will be disqualified from driving.

I have been charged with failing to stop, failing to report and careless driving. Will I get points for all three?

No. The court will decide which of the charges is the most serious and give you points for that one.

Will I go to prison for failing to stop or failing to report an accident?

You could go to prison for up to 6 months. A prison sentence is reserved for the most serious cases usually involving causing a serious injury or damage.

I have been charged with failing to stop after an accident. I had an accident but I didn’t realise. Can I be found guilty?

If you genuinely did not know that you had an accident then you are not guilty of failing stop and you should be found not guilty.

Be careful though you might still required to report the accident if you find some damage on your vehicle later.

Which court will deal with my case?

All cases of failing to stop or report an accident are dealt with in the magistrates’ courts. Appeals are in the Crown Court (and sometimes in the High Court).

Will my case be decided by a judge?

It could be. Most cases in a magistrates’ court are heard by 2 or 3 magistrates. Sometimes cases are dealt with by a District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) who has the same powers as magistrates.

Can I have a jury trial?

No. Jury trials are only held in the Crown Court. Trials for failing to stop or report have to be in the magistrates’ court where there is no jury.

Do I need a lawyer at court?

It’s up to you. You can represent yourself. If you want to find a lawyer read this post. LINK

Appeals

I was convicted at court for failing to stop or failing to report an accident. Can I appeal?

Yes you can appeal to the Crown Court. You have 21 days from the date of sentence to appeal. Judges will only allow an appeal after 21 days if you have a very good reason.

My sentence for failing to stop or failing to report an accident was too high. Can I appeal?

Yes you can appeal to the Crown Court. You have 21 days from the date of sentence to appeal. Judges will only allow an appeal after 21 days if you have a very good reason.

28 Replies to “Failing to Stop or Report an Accident FAQs”

    1. Interesting reading ,I had an incident in a pudlic cer park where I reversed into a parked car to let a person out hitting the rear corner of his bumper,we let the lady out but another took our space ,we left the car park then returned to check the other vehicle for any damage ,their was no damage to his or mine ,we took a photo of his bumper ,as no damage was Visable we dident leav a note or report it,the lady leaving the car park reported us to the police but did not see us return as she had driven off and look at the car and take the photo,I am now being done for careless driving and failing to stop after an accident. And the other person is saying he had damage to his bumper & light which no where near to where we hit him,no damage done why would I need to report it ?

  1. What is the law when for instance it is unsafe to stop? Ie you cannot stop immediately due to being in live traffic and no hard shoulder?

    1. Hi Darren. Nobody would expect that you should stop in a position that would place you or anyone else in danger. The law just says that you have to stop. In cases where there is a good reason not to stop then the driver must report the accident in person at a police station or to a police constable. This must be done as soon as reasonably practicable which in most cases is straight away.
      Hope this helps.
      Stephen

  2. Hey i have received a nip which they have sent me 1 month after the incident and it was just a minnor incident no one was heart or no serious damaged just a little scratch on the side or both car i did stop and exchange my detail with the driver . What should i do as it have cross the 14 day period

  3. Hi Stephen,
    on the 1rst of September, I got an insurance claim on my car about an accident that I believe I was not involved. I mean, I was there at the time of the claim, it is 100m from my house in a co-op parking. I do recall a car parked very close to mine, but I maneuvered carefully and am sure I did not hit it. I keep playing in my head but I am absolute certain i did not hear or felt anything. 3 days later the insurance claim. And now I got a letter from the police saying they intend to institute proceedings against the following offenses:
    1. fail to stop after road accident
    2. fail to stop – give name and address of self and owner/vehicle details
    3. Driver of a vehicle involved in a road accident failed to report that accident.
    This alleged incident occurred on the 30th of August. I have replied to the police notice for the current driver details, and I have stated everything I remember in the explanations. This in just on the road I live, in from of the place where i cut my hair, buy stuff from charity and my groceries from co-op. Most traders there know me and my car, and it makes zero sense for me to run from there.

  4. Hi I wonder if u can help a lorry has driven into my house and drive away some water board employees saw this no one has reported this are the water board employees perverting the course of justice I don’t know wot to do

    1. Good morning Keith. Sorr to hear about the lorry driving into your house. You should report the matter to the police and to your house insurers and let them deal with it.
      Best of luck Stephen

  5. Hi Stephen, thanks for providing really helpful advice on these pages.

    A general legal opinion on the following scenario would be hepful:

    A car came off the road and damaged a residential hedge in a relatively rural location at 3am. The driver of the car then stopped and waited a reasonable amount of time to see if there was anyone to exchange details with. There was nobody at the scene to exchange details with. The driver then reported the incident to the police and insurance company later that day.

    Having received a failure to stop at the scene of an accident + a dangerous driving Notice Of Intended Prosecution, would the driver have a defence if summoned to court?

    1. Hi Careful Driver. From what you say there might be a defence to failing to stop at the scene of an accident. Failing to report depends on whether the report to the police was made as soon as reasonable practicable. Also the report must be in person to a police officer or at a police station.
      Need more details to be sure.

  6. I was issued with nip on 4th of January . Incident took a place 19th of November. My car was parked and a bus hit my door. Now after 46 days they asking me to identify driver . What should I do.

  7. Hi wonder if you can advise? Received a letter today from police asking for driver details re car accident back in Feb stating failure to stop, failure to report a collision and driving without due care and attention. I was the driver and the irony is the road was blocked by a badly parked police van. I reversed and I thought I had stalled my car but got out to check I hadn’t bumped the car behind me. It was dark but had a look then returned to my car to get my phone so I could have a better look. I was absolutely convinced there was no damage. I completed the reverse and carried on down the road even flagging another car down to tell them the road was blocked, so hardly the actions of someone fleeing an accident. Next morning I drove down the road again pausing near the car to confirm there was no damage and there was not. Satisfied there was no damage I went on my way. I was absolutely knocked for six today by this letter and as usual the traffic unit is not open today so I am left dangling, deeply upset and worried. Will I have to go to court? I haven’t heard anything from their insurance which seems to support again my position that there was no damage.

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Anita. Sorry to hear about all this, it must be very worrying. I can’t advise you on this page (it isn’t confidential). Please give me a call on 0330 111 6074 or send me an email. I am available on Sundays. Stephen

  8. Hi A lady hit onto my back passenger door and the seat airbag came out and seriously demaged my door, wing and tyre. I was unable to see anything and for a minute I was unable to move as I was very scared sitting inside the car. When I came out I fell down and that lady run away and was unable to stop, didnt gave me her details or anything. I was unable to copy the reg because I was not feeling well on that time but with the help of cctv I found the reg of her car now. What should I do now? Please advise me thanks

      1. What about my insurance? Is it gonna go higher If I make a claim with the other lady’s insurance company after reporting the matter to the police as I now knows the reg of that lady?

        Thanks

  9. What about my insurance? Is it gonna go higher If I make a claim with the other lady’s insurance company after reporting the matter to the police as I now knows the reg of that lady?

    Thanks

  10. I’ve recently got a letter from the police saying I was involved in an accident and didn’t stop which was from 2 weeks ago. Shall I inform my insurance company myself or wait

  11. Hi,

    I reversed into a car at slow speed while getting out of a parking spot. I got out to check and did not see any damage on either of our cars. The car owner did not turn up and I went to a police station in person and described the incident. The officer on duty told me to not worry and didn’t take anything in writing.

    I find this quite strange and I’m worried that if the other cars owner reports me then there will be no evidence of me having ever gone to the police to report this myself. All I can think of is my phones location history and the cctv footage showing me walking into the police station (although this gets wiped over every 28 days). Should I be worried at all?

  12. Hello Stephen
    I hAve recieved a nip with the nip header crossed put. 5 weeks after alleged offence. Asking to name the driver. Failing to stop. Failing to report and careless driving. But the time and date are incorrect as I have vehicle tracking proof of the vehicle being parked up 10 miles away. Leaving one hour before and one hour after. Can I request the claimant details. Car colour and damage. Do I need to name the driver when it was in fact stationary in deference the location ? How should I deal either the his nonsense ? Thanks

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