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Failure to Stop and Failure to Report

23 December 2021
Bad Driving

What Must a Motorist Do After an Accident?

Accidents are, unfortunately, an everyday occurrence up and down the country. However, a driver won't always be accused of a failure to stop after an accident. This offence only arises in certain circumstances. Those circumstances are:

(i) If somebody other than the driver is injured in the accident; or

(ii) If the driver causes damage to somebody else's vehicle, somebody else's animal or to property fixed to land where the accident occurs.

Failure to Stop

The first offence which can arise in the above situation is a failure to stop. A driver is obliged to stop and provide details of their name and address to anybody who has reasonable grounds for requiring those details. So, for example, the owner of another car which is damaged in an accident would be entitled to request such details. A driver who fails to stop commits an offence.

The offence of failing to stop is also likely to be made out even if the driver of the vehicle stops momentarily but fails to provide sufficient details to allow for the identity of the owner of the vehicle to be ascertained.

The driver of a vehicle who stops after an accident but does not provide details when asked, by the driver of the other vehicle, or any other person in the vicinity, it is possible for the charge of failing to stop to be made out.

If the driver of the vehicle fails to stop after a collision but then returns to the scene later, it may still be possible for him/her to be guilty of the offence. The pivotal issue is centred on the particular circumstances in existence at the time.

The court, in deciding whether a person is guilty of failure to stop after an accident may consider factors such as the reason for departure, duration of the delay and return, knowledge of the accident and the cause of the failure.

This obligation to stop will only exist if the driver knows or should have known that an accident had taken place. Invariably, a loud bang or significant movement is a clear indicator of knowledge. If this is proven, the motorist must prove that on the balance of probabilities that he was oblivious to the accident.

Of course, it may well be that there is nobody at the scene to whom details can be provided. And so this gives rise to a second obligation:

Failure to Report an Accident

The driver of a motor vehicle who has been involved in an accident and failed to stop and exchange particulars, has a duty to report the accident to the police as soon as is "reasonably practicable" or within 24 hours. This 24 hour period begins from the time of the alleged incident.

There is no requirement for the motorist to report the accident to the police if he or she has stopped after the accident and exchanged particulars with the other motorist, or provided details at the scene of the incident.

Any report made to the police, needs to be made in person and a simple phone call will not usually be sufficient. Similarly, the report will have to be made within the stipulated 24 hour period or as soon as reasonably practicable after the incident. Failure to report an accident in this way could result in conviction.


Parliament has acknowledged the seriousness of the above offences and as a consequence, the maximum penalty for failing to stop or for failing to report is a fine not exceeding £5,000 and/ or 6 months imprisonment, although prison is unlikely except in very serious cases.

If someone is found guilty of the above offences, his or her licence must be endorsed with between 5-10 penalty points. Disqualification is at the discretion of the court and will depend on the seriousness of the offence or if there are mitigating or aggravating factors.

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