Not stopping at the scene of an accident, and failing to report an accident, is a criminal offence - no matter how big or small the incident. Any collision, from a minor ‘car-park kiss’ to a serious Road Traffic Accident (RTA) must be reported. But recent reports from the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB) show that the number of people driving off has increased for the first time in a decade
The MIB figures show a 5% increase in motorists driving away from a scene of an accident, which is worrying, especially as one would assume that it is only uninsured drivers that would behave in such a way. There doesn’t seem to be anything that has directly caused this increase in motorists failing to stop at the scene of an accident and it has the MIB slightly stumped. They have commissioned their own study into why more people may be fleeing the scene of an accident. My advice to the MIB, start by considering whether the charging practices of the Police or CPS have changed at all in the last year or so.
Ashton West, MIB’s chief executive said, “It’s not as simple as saying penalties need to be stiffer. If people panic and leave the scene because the penalties are tough it won’t make any difference. Perhaps the way forward is an incentive that gives a reduced sentence if they take ownership of their offence.”
This is a good idea, but I disagree that uninsured drivers are the cause of this increase. In my busy practice area I have seen new enquiries for ‘fail to stop/fail to report’ increase dramatically in the last year or so. It is almost never the case that the driver is uninsured. It is more often due to the fact that either it was an extremely low speed collision (a ‘car-park kiss’) and the driver was unaware of the ‘collision’, saw no damage (so nothing to report) or they panicked and drove off.
So what are the reasons? I’d estimate that it is due to either: a change charging practice by the Police/CPS; the parameters for this research changing; or people’s fear of incurring penalty points and thus paying a higher insurance premium or losing their licence.
The right penalty for the traffic offence can prove to be a massive deterrent. In the past 10 years the number of uninsured drivers on the road has halved, and this is mainly due to the fact that your car will be taken away from you and crushed if you are driving without insurance. Uninsured driving is an automatic 6 point penalty and in my opinion that is tough enough.
The penalty for failing to stop/failing to report an accident is 5-10 points or a disqualification, depending on the severity of the offence. Perhaps there needs to be a campaign, like those for uninsured drivers, or drink driving, to educate drivers as to exactly what is classed as a ‘collision’ or ‘accident’ and what is expected of them if they are involved in such an incident Let us start with educating drivers before we seek to punish them.
Hopefully the MIB research will show us why this increase has happened and they can come up with a tangible solution that makes failing to stop/report after an accident as socially unacceptable as drink driving.
Paul Reddy is a specialist Driving Offence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.
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