After an accident do our fleet drivers know their legal responsibilities? John Davidge takes a look.

Imagine the scene – you’re driving along the road, minding your own business when an oncoming car swoops into view, drifting slightly towards you – and BANG! Your driver’s door mirror is no more.  What’s more, the offending car is disappearing fast in the distance without stopping.  Well, how much is that going to cost me…?  It’s frustrating, but it’ll get repaired in a few days. It’s more money gone but that is the cost of running a car these days.

A few weeks later and there’s a knock at the door – you answer it to find a police officer standing there who questions you about failing to report an accident! You protest your innocence and explain how the other driver didn’t stop, leaving you out of pocket. But now you are also facing a court case for the offence, bringing even more expense and hassle.  Well, on top of the repair bill…!

Regrettably, this scenario is not unusual.  When a driver is issued a company vehicle, there is typically a ‘driver’s handbook’ full of policy and procedure spelling out the rules for your vehicle, how it gets serviced, who to call for windscreen repair, accidents and tyre matters, etc.  But why is there nothing on the law and the driver’s responsibility after a collision?

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Whilst the law is very clear, it is seldom understood by drivers, so let’s recap:

  • If, owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road, a collision occurs whereby injury is caused to any person other than the driver
  • Damage is caused to any other vehicle, or to any roadside furniture
  • Damage caused to any animal

In the event of the above, the driver must stop and must exchange details with anyone who has reasonable cause to require them.

And here is the key part – if that driver does not stop at the scene, or if those details are not exchanged at the time (including insurance details if someone was injured), the driver must report the collision to a police constable or at a police station, as soon as reasonably practicable and in any case within 24 hours!  All very clearly defined in Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and any such failure can end in a court case.

In the example above, even though the ‘other driver’ didn’t stop (but perhaps in a fit of conscience, then called Police to report it later) our original driver:

  • Didn’t exchange the required details at the time
  • Didn’t report the collision to police

Therefore, the original driver commits an offence, as does the ‘other driver’ who failed to stop at the scene.

This might seem a little detailed – however, you should ask yourself, ‘how many of your drivers really know and understand these legal obligations fully?’  And if they don’t know, shouldn’t we help them?

-Post-accident interviews often reveal that drivers do not understand this. In my experience it is common during such discussions that the driver really doesn’t understand their obligations and has committed an offence.  Of course, we take the time to enlighten them – but shouldn’t we make sure that all drivers are aware what they must do prior to an accident?  In the heat of the moment after the collision it is so easy to break the law – how can we help them to be prepared and not get caught out?

The law is clear – even if drivers don’t remember the details, a vague awareness of this area might just inspire them to check it out quickly (on their smartphones perhaps) and avoid getting into trouble.

Better still, let’s learn not to trust other drivers – and avoid getting involved in the first place!

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John Davidge is Head of Fleet Technical at Cardinus Risk Management. John served for 15 years policing the roads as an officer, where he saw the results of driving errors first-hand. He holds the National General Certificate from the National Examining Board in Occupational Safety and Health.

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