Motorists ignorance of the law leading to criminal prosecutions

Many motorists find themselves the subject of criminal prosecutions because they are not aware of their legal obligations following road traffic accidents.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 places many obligations upon road users. Many people are unaware that if they are involved in an accident on a road in their vehicle and damage has been caused to another person, another person's property or an animal, they must stop and provide their full details to the injured party or owner of the damaged property. An individual must give their full name, address and also the address of the owner of the vehicle if not themselves and in addition the identification marks of the vehicle.

A driver must stop even if it is apparent no one has witnessed the accident, even if only for a very short time. In circumstances where it has not been possible to exchange details then there is also an obligation upon the driver to report the matter to the police as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event within 24 hours.

Whilst the offences of failing to stop and failing to report are usually dealt with by way of a fine and 5 - 10 penalty points, in the most serious of matters the Courts have the power to sentence offenders to imprisonment for up to six months and to disqualify them from driving for up to 12 months.

These offences are commonly committed in combination with an alleged offence of careless driving. For instance, if you collide with another vehicle in a supermarket car park causing damage without realising, leave the scene and fail to report the matter to the police you could find yourself being prosecuted for offences of careless driving, failing to stop and failing to report.

Emma Lineton, a solicitor specialising in motoring and criminal law says “Individuals have a tendency to panic when they receive a summons to attend Court and do not realise there are ways to challenge such allegations. Many people are unaware of their involvement in collisions and therefore unaware that they are required to stop and report the accident. If a Court can be satisfied that this is the case then a driver will be found not guilty of the offence."

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