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It is an offence for a driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle to fail to stop and give their details when involved in an accident that’s caused either damage or injury to someone else.
Section 170(2) Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that the driver of the motor vehicle must stop and, if required to do so by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle and the identification marks of the vehicle.
The duty to stop means to stop sufficiently long enough to exchange the particulars above. The driver is required to give correct details to enable prompt communication and failure to do so is an offence. It doesn’t matter whose fault the accident was, and the requirement is to stop ‘at the scene’. If you revisit the scene after initially leaving, even if you only left for a short period of time, you may still have committed an offence.
Section 170(3) places an obligation on the driver, if he does not give his name and address under subsection (2) above, to report the accident to a Police Constable or Police Station as soon as reasonably practicable and in any case within 24 hours.
If for some reason you failed to stop after being involved in an accident, or failed to exchange details, the duty to report means 'as soon as reasonably practicable'. It doesn’t mean you have 24-hours within which to report the accident. The report must be made at a Police Station or to a Police Constable, a phone call will not necessarily be acceptable.
If you fail to do this ‘as soon as practicable’ and within the 24-hour period, then it could result in a conviction. The court will decide what is ‘reasonably practicable’ and every case will be determined on its own facts.
If the accident is ‘damage only’, you only have to provide details to the owner of the damaged items, you do not need to refer the matter to the Police.
Where the evidence reveals a failure to comply with both subsections (2) and (3), the Police normally bring proceedings for both offences; the failure to stop offence (2) is usually viewed as the more serious of the two.
A person who fails to comply with subsection (2) or (3) above is guilty of an offence punishable with a maximum sentence of six months' imprisonment. The offence is known as an AC20 offence.
If you’ve been charged with failing to stop or report, then the prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that injury or damage was caused. If there was no damage or injury, no duty arises upon the driver to stop and/or report the accident, so you can’t be found guilty of a failure to do so.
There are potential defences available. For example, you would have to satisfy the court that you were genuinely unaware of an incident, or any damage occurring, or you may have stopped at the scene but could not exchange details with any other party, so you left the scene after a reasonable period of time. The burden of proof is on the defence to establish these defences.
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