Yes, failing to stop at the scene of a road traffic accident is a crime, if you were involved in the incident. In fact, the law states that you must stop and exchange your name and contact details with the other driver, and anyone else who has reasonable grounds to request this information.
Have you been charged with the failure to stop and/or report an accident? Contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We are specialist motoring defence lawyers and offer clear, practical legal advice. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do I have to stop at the scene of an accident?
If you are involved in a road accident that causes some form of damage, then you are legally obliged to stop at the scene of the accident. Damage might be caused to another person, to another vehicle, to an animal or to property.
Of course, you might not actually know whether any damage has occurred until you exit your vehicle. However, this is not necessarily a defence. If you have a reasonable suspicion that someone – or something – has been injured, then you must stop. This applies, even if the accident was not your fault.
Not only must you stop, but you must also provide your name, address and vehicle registration number to anyone who has reasonable grounds to request this information. This includes anyone else who was involved in the collision, such as the other driver. These details must be correct.
Only once this information has been exchanged are you free to leave the scene of the accident. The exception to this rule is if you stop but no one else does, meaning you have no one to exchange details with. In this scenario, you must report the accident to the police instead. This must be done within 24 hours.
What happens if I don’t stop at the scene of an accident?
If you fail to stop at the scene of a road traffic accident in which you were involved, then you are breaking the law. The police may then begin an investigation to find you, using tools such as CCTV and witness evidence to aid their search.
If the police locate you, you will be arrested and charged with ‘failure to stop’. This is sometimes known as a hit and run offence. Depending on the circumstances, you may be charged with additional offences such as careless driving or causing death by dangerous driving. We highly recommend that you speak to our motoring defence solicitors as soon as you are arrested. We provide free police station representation and can take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Your case will then be heard at the Magistrates’ Court. You must decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty. If you instruct us, we will advise on the recommended course of action. You may have a defence available. If so, we will argue your case in court, outlining why you are innocent of the charges against you.
What are the defences for failure to stop?
If you genuinely did not know that an accident had occurred, then this will be a possible line of defence. There are times when a driver does not see or hear anything untoward, so continues to their destination without a moment’s thought. It is only later that they learn of the incident. However, they cannot be blamed for failing to stop, as they had no knowledge of the accident.
Alternatively, it may be that you did stop at the scene of the accident, but you could not find anyone else to exchange details with. When this happens, you must show that you waited at the location for a reasonable length of time before leaving. You must also report the accident to the police.
There may be further defences available. It all depends on the circumstances. If there is not a complete defence, then it may be advisable to plead guilty to a reduced charge or to plead a case of special reasons. As motoring defence solicitors, we can suggest the best approach in your particular case.
What are the penalties for failure to stop?
If you are found guilty of the failure to stop, then the Magistrates’ Court will decide what penalty to impose. This depends on your level of culpability, and the amount of harm that has been caused.
A high level of culpability includes where:
- The offence was committed in circumstances where a request for a sample of breath, blood or urine would have been made had the offender stopped
- The offence was committed by an offender seeking to avoid arrest for another offence
- The offender knew or suspected that personal injury had been caused and/or left an injured party at the scene
- The offender gave false details
The maximum punishment is a fine, a six-month prison sentence and a 12-month driving disqualification. Less serious offences might attract a fine and between five to six penalty points. Therefore, the sentencing outcome can vary dramatically.
Is failure to stop the same as the failure to report?
The failure to stop is not the same thing as the failure to report, although the two are closely linked. To recap, you must stop at the scene of a road traffic accident, if you are involved in the incident. You must stop long enough to exchange details with the other parties, and these details must be accurate.
If you do not do any of the above, then you have a legal duty to report the accident instead. This might happen if, for example, you stop but no one else does. Whatever the reason, you must report the accident to the police as soon as possible, and no later than 24 hours after the incident occurred.
If you fail to stop and/or report the accident, then you could be charged with one or both offences.
I’ve been involved in a car accident – what should I do?
If you are involved in a road traffic accident, then you should always stop to assess the damage. If there is any indication that some form of injury has been sustained (whether to a person, animal, vehicle or property), then details should be exchanged with the other parties. Where you cannot do this, you must report the accident to the police instead.
If it is too late to heed any of this advice, then please do not worry – our solicitors can help you. We are specialist motoring defence lawyers and can help you fight a failure to stop the charge, along with any additional charges, such as the failure to report. These charges are relatively common and we have helped countless other individuals in the same situation. We are not here to judge you. Rather, we are here to help you secure a positive outcome.
If you have been accused of failing to stop at the scene of an accident, call us now on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.