Julie Daniels
Motor insurance expert
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Posted 8 MARCH 2023

Post-Accident Fines

Being involved in a road accident is something that all drivers dread, but despite our best efforts to try and avoid them, they still happen every day. In fact, our research shows that drivers in Great Britain are involved in nearly 346 accidents each day.

To help you understand what you need to do in the crucial moments post-accident, or if you’re driving and see the aftermath of one, we’ve put together a list of some of the fines you could be subjected to if you do the wrong thing - or nothing at all.

What to do when you first see an accident

If you witness an accident or are one of the first on the scene, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Leaving enough space and safely stopping after witnessing a collision

Highway Code Rule: 126

While driving, it’s incredibly important to leave a minimum two-second gap between you and the driver ahead of you on high-speed roads and in tunnels (and you should double this distance when driving on wet roads, and leave ten times more distance when it’s icy). By following this guidance, if you witness a collision, or happen to be behind other vehicles that are involved in a road accident, you will have enough time and space to stop safely and avoid causing another collision.

Although there are no direct fines for not leaving enough space, the Highway Code states its importance to ensure everyone stays safe on the road and no unnecessary collisions occur.

Not using hazard lights to warn other drivers of upcoming hazards

Highway Code Rule: 116

If you just witnessed or happen to come across an accident on your journey, it’s a good idea to turn your hazard lights on to temporarily warn other drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead. However, the Highway Code clearly states that you should only use them long enough to ensure your warning has been observed, and to not use them while driving for any other reason warning other road users of upcoming hazards.

Reversing in one way street

Highway Code Rule: 203

There may be occasions where a car breaks down ahead of you on a one-way street, so there is no way around the stationary vehicle. In cases like this, motorists should only reverse on a one-way road if absolutely necessary, and you should never reverse further than needed to get your journey back on track.

Using your mobile phone to call emergency services unsafely while driving

Highway Code Rule: 149
Penalty: £1,000 fine (£2,500 for PCV or goods vehicle), 3 penalty points or a discretionary disqualification

Calling the emergency services is a natural reaction to witnessing an accident, and although it’s illegal to use any handheld device, like a mobile phone or tablet, whilst driving, there is an exception to this rule if it’s genuinely unsafe or impractical to stop. However, if possible, you should pull over and park somewhere safe before you dial 999 or 112.

What should I do if I am approaching an accident that’s already happened?

If you are driving and come across the scene of an accident that has already occurred, there are a few things to keep in mind to be a courteous and safe driver. We’ve listed the Highway Code rules to be aware of if witnessing a road traffic accident to avoid fines or penalty points:

Failing to follow police signal when approaching an accident

Highway Code Rule: 282
Penalty: £100 fine, 3 penalty points

When approaching an accident, you should always remain alert and avoid slowing down unnecessarily to get a look at the aftermath of the collision - a momentary lapse in focus could be enough to cause another incident or collision. Instead, focus on the road ahead, keep an eye out for debris or slow moving traffic, and always follow the police signals. Ignoring an officer’s directions is an offence and you could be fined £100 or given three penalty points.

Failing to comply with traffic signs

Highway Code Rule: TS50 
Penalty: 3 penalty points

Traffic signs are there to keep us safe, so ignoring their instructions comes with severe consequences. Even if you’ve just watched an accident take place and are feeling a little panicked - or nosey - be sure to pay attention to any signs nearby or you could be given three penalty points, which will stay on your record for four years.

Failing to comply with traffic light signals

Highway Code Rule: TS10
Penalty: 3 penalty points, £100 fine

Just as with traffic signs, there are no excuses for not complying with traffic light signals, even in the moments of panic after witnessing a collision. However, the penalty for this offence doesn’t end at three penalty points, you could also be fined £100.

Failing to comply with double white lines

Highway Code Rule: TS20
Penalty: 3 penalty points

Be sure to always comply with the road markings, such as double white lines, even if you’re keen to make way for other road users to drive around the site of the collision. Double white lines where the line closest to you is broken mean you can overtake where it’s safe and there’s enough space to complete the manoeuvre, but if the line nearest to you is solid, don’t cross or straddle it unless it’s safe and you need to turn off onto a side road or premises.

You can only overtake a stationary vehicle, or a bike, horse, or road maintenance vehicle travelling at 10 mph or less if there are solid double white lines.

Stopping in a yellow box junction

Highway Code Rule: 174
Penalty: £80 - £160

If an accident happens and you’re forced to overtake another car or change your road position for any reason, think carefully about whether it’s safe to enter a box junction or better to wait. Box junctions are crossings with yellow hatched lines in them; you should wait until your exit road or lane is clear to drive into them, but you can move forward and wait there if you’re turning right and your way is blocked by oncoming traffic or other cars waiting to turn right.

If the box is at a signalled roundabout, wait until you can cross all the way over without stopping before driving into the box.

Using or stopping in a bus lane where it is not permitted

Highway Code Rule: 141
Penalty: £30 - £65 outside of London, £80 - £160 inside of London

Unless the road markings say otherwise you should never drive or stop in a bus lane. If you need to pull into one to let emergency vehicles through, you may do so, but as soon as they have passed, you must move back into your lane. And if you need to stop to call the emergency services or any other reason, you should pull over in a safe spot where you won’t obstruct other road users.

The penalty for this offence depends on where you are. If you’re outside of London you can expect to have to pay between £30 and £65 but the fine is more severe for drivers in London at £80 to £160.

Witnessing an accident and don't show up to court

Penalty: Up to two years in prison, a fine, or both

You might be asked to attend court as a witness if you’ve seen an accident take place on the roads. If you’re sent a court summons you’ll be expected to show up on the day and give evidence, and failing to do so without a good reason could lead to your arrest for contempt of court.

What should I do if I’m involved in a road traffic accident?

If you do happen to be involved in an accident yourself, here’s some guidance on what to do after being in a collision to avoid penalties.

  • Pull over safely and stop
    If you need to stop your vehicle because of a breakdown or incident, try to stop in a safe place where you, your passengers and your car are less likely to be at risk from moving traffic. Look for a parking spot, a service area, lay-by or emergency areas. Hard shoulders are okay but they’re less likely to offer the same level of protection because of how close they are to fast-moving traffic.
  • Move away from the vehicle and call the emergency services
    You, and anyone else you were travelling with, should move away from the car and moving traffic. This’ll keep you out of harm's way if another vehicle collides with yours and shunts it forward. Put your hazard lights on to warn oncoming traffic, switch off your engine, and put on any high-visibility clothing you have with you.

    Now it’s time to call the emergency services - you can use your mobile phone, an emergency telephone, or press the SOS button in your car if it has one.
  • Share your name, address, and vehicle registration
    If the incident caused damage or harm to any other person, vehicle, animal or property, you need to give yours and the vehicle owner’s name and address, as well as the vehicle’s registration number to anyone who needs them.

    If you forget or are unable to do so at the time of the collision, give these details to the police as soon as you can within 24 hours.
  • Show the police your insurance certificate
    If someone was injured in the accident, the police will ask to see an insurance certificate. If you can’t do this at the scene of the incident, make sure you do as soon as you can within the next seven days. If not, you could be slapped with a £5,000 fine and have eight penalty points added to your licence.

Being involved in a road collision can be very distressing, whether it’s just a little bump or something more significant. However, it’s vital that drivers report all accidents to their insurance provider, or they could refuse to honour the policy.

When driving by or approaching a collision, your instinct might be to slow down to see what happened, but it’s important that motorists stay focused and keep their eyes on the road. Getting distracted and not following the rules of the road properly can not only lead to hefty fines but can impact the safety of other road users.

For more information on what to do after you find yourself in an incident, please find our guide here:
What to do after a car accident.


The study reviewed the Highway Code to identify applicable rules and penalties.