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Traffic collisions

The law defines a reportable road traffic collision as an accident involving a ‘mechanically-propelled vehicle’ on a road or other public area which causes: • Injury or damage to anybody - other than the driver of that vehicle, • Injury or damage to an animal - other than one being carried on that vehicle (an animal is classed as a horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog). • Damage to a vehicle - other than the vehicle which caused the accident. • Damage to property constructed on, affixed to, growing in, or otherwise forming part of the land where the road is. If they take place in a public place the police can investigate off-road collisions, for example, collisions in car parks, which, because they are open to the public, are deemed public places.

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If you are ever involved in a Road Traffic Collision, make sure you know what to do:

The first thing you MUST do at the scene of a collision is stop.

You should then try and do as many of the following before leaving the scene while the incident is fresh in your mind:

  • Call for an ambulance if someone is injured and the police if the road is blocked or you need help.
  • Note down the names and addresses of any witnesses.
  • Make notes about how the collision happened while it’s fresh in your mind. This will help you make a statement later.
  • Take a photograph if possible, perhaps using your mobile phone.
  • Be prepared to give your name, address and insurance details to others involved.
  • Note down the names and addresses of other parties as well as their vehicle registration numbers.


After the collision, you'll need to think about doing the following:

  • Inform your insurance company regardless of whether or not a claim is to be made.
  • Produce your driving documents at a police station if you are asked to do so.
  • If you did not give your name and address at the scene you must report the collision to police within 24 hours. You are legally obliged to do this and you could be prosecuted if you don’t.

The driver of the vehicle involved should take the following documents to the station with them:

  • FULL driving licence
  • Insurance certificate
  • MOT documents.

N.B. If no one was injured in the collision and you’ve already exchanged contact and insurance details with the other person, or people, involved you are under no legal obligation to report this incident to the police.


What is a road traffic collision?

A road traffic collision is where a vehicle is involved in a collision on a road or in a car park open to the public, where someone else's property or vehicle is damaged or any person or animal is injured (animal means: horse, cattle, ass, mule, pig, sheep, goat or dog).

I have been involved in a road collision; do I have to report it?

This will depend on whether injury has been caused to any person and/or whether you have provided the required details at the scene of the incident. The Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 170) explains this fully.

If your (motorised) vehicle is involved in an accident you need to take the following steps to ensure you do not break the law:-
Your duties are to stop, to give information, in some cases to produce your insurance certificate and in some cases to report the accident to the police.

Further Detail

If, as a driver, you are involved in a road-traffic accident and one or more of the following occurs:

  • a person, other than yourself, is injured,
  • damage is caused to another vehicle or to someone else’s property
  • an animal has been killed or injured, except in your own vehicle or trailer (an ‘animal’ is defined as ‘any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog’)

You must:

  • stop and remain at the scene for a reasonable period
  • give your vehicle registration number, your name and address, and that of the vehicle owner (if different), to anyone with reasonable grounds for asking for those details
  • If you do not exchange those details at the scene, you must report the accident at a police station or to a police constable as soon as you can, and in any case within 24 hours.

In the case of injuries

Where injury is caused to another person, then in addition to the above you must also:-
Produce your certificate of insurance, if anyone at the scene has reasonable grounds to see it. If you do not, you must report the accident at a police station or to a constable as soon as is practicable and in any case within 24 hours. You’ll need to produce your certificate of insurance.

Even if there was no injury involved, if someone holds you responsible for the accident, they have the right to request your insurance details. This request can be made later; it does not necessarily have to be at the time of the accident. A failure to provide that information without a reasonable excuse is also an offence.

How do I report a road collision/accident to the police?

If you did not comply with the requirement to stop and give details, produce your insurance (if injury caused) it is a legal requirement that you report the collision/accident in person at a police station as soon as is possible and in any case within 24 hours.

Reports of an accident/collision cannot be made by phone, post or e-mail – they must be made in person and within 24 hours.

Do the police attend every collision?

No. The police do not routinely attend collisions which do not involve injury. They will only attend those non injury collisions where there is a clear, specific purpose for doing so. If police do not attend there will be no further details recorded about your collision, and no police investigation will take place. Contact your insurers to progress a claim.

What happens if the police record my collision?

Collision reports are made by police if a driver does not stop, or does not exchange details, if someone is injured in the collision, or where criminal proceedings may be considered against one or more of the drivers involved.

A police officer will be allocated to investigate your collision, collect all available evidence and establish whether or not any offences have been committed.

In these circumstances you should be given an RTC (Road Traffic Collision) reference number.

Who is the officer investigating my collision?

If an officer attended the incident they would probably have provided you with their collar/badge number and name.  If the matter was reported at a police station it may be several days before an officer is allocated and this officer may be involved in other investigations etc. and not immediately able to contact you.

If the incident was one where there was no requirement in law to report the collision and an officer did not attend the scene; it is possible that no further investigation will be undertaken.  You should be informed of this by an officer.

You should expect an investigating officer to make contact with you and provide their details; however this may take some weeks dependent on the nature of the collision.

I would like a copy of the collision report

A report will only be made available once the police investigation is considered complete. There is also a fee to pay to obtain this.

Request for information (pdf)

How long do the police have to investigate a collision?

The police have 6 months to investigate any collision. However, most investigations will be completed before this time.

Will I be informed of the result of the police enquiry?

If an investigating officer records details of the collision the drivers involved will be notified of the outcome of the investigation. This includes whether criminal proceedings will be taken against anyone.

I have been involved in accident but I did not report the accident to the police. The other party is now refusing to disclose their insurance details, what can I do?

Contact your insurance company who should make the necessary enquiries in the first instance. Once the enquiries have been completed and they are satisfied that the person does not have insurance, they should advise you to report the matter to the police who may be able to trace the other person.

It would be helpful if you could supply the registration number, make and model of the vehicle and the name and address of the other person if you were given it at the scene. If the person is traced they will be prosecuted for any relevant road traffic offence(s).

You can also take out civil proceeding against the other driver in order to try and reclaim the cost of any damage to your car. If you have legal protection as part of your cover your insurance company will be able to advise you on this matter.

If you have suffered any form of personal injury, loss or damage to your property, as a result of the accident and the other person cannot be traced or is uninsured, you may be able to obtain compensation through the Motor Insurers Bureau:
Motor Insurers Bureau
152 Silbury Boulevard
Central Milton Keynes
Telephone: 01908 830001

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