If you spend a lot of your time driving, then the chances are overwhelming that at some point you’ve found your vehicle dented, and the responsible party nowhere in sight. This week, we learned, via research carried out on behalf of YourParkingSpace.co.uk, that around one in seven of us would certainly run away after having dented someone’s motor – these people presumably having taken lessons in responsibility from Homer Simpson.
Unlike dining and dashing, denting and dashing is pretty much risk-free. If it’s the middle of the night and you’ve just backed in to someone’s Astra, the chances of them ever tracking you down to exact Liam-Neeson-style revenge are slim to non-existent.
So, if no-one sees you do it, what’s the harm? It’s not like this is a problem unique to motorists: we all remember that parliamentary expenses scandal. And there’s a frankly enormous body of psychology there to prove what we already know: many of us will do the wrong thing if we think we won’t ever be caught.
We’re not here to lecture you all. If we were the sort of people who liked to dent people’s vehicles and then scarper, that’s exactly what we’d do to appear innocent. But it’s still worth thinking about the matter, and what the law has to say on it.
What does the law say about ‘denting and dashing’?
So called ‘denting and dashing’ is, as you might imagine, illegal. But it’s more of a technical offence than a serious one. You’re legally obliged to stop and provide your contact details following every collision, no matter how minor. That’s under the Road Traffic Act (1998).
Specifically, the law singles out collisions which cause ‘damage or injury’. So, if you manage to knock against the other vehicle so gently that it doesn’t leave a mark, you’re off the hook. If you do leave a mark, on the other hand, you need to provide:
• Your full name
• Your registration number
• Your address
Of course, there are several practical objections to raise, here. Firstly, who wants to leave their name and address on the street for any maniac to come and pick up? Secondly, the law says that you need to provide these details to ‘anyone with legal grounds to be asking’ for them. Which is a rather wide net. Thirdly, there’s nothing to stop you from giving a fake name and address – unless you’re unlucky enough to dent the car of a master handwriting-analyst, you’re probably going to get away with it.
Your insurance policy’s small print will almost always stipulate that you’re supposed to record every minor shunt and bump with them, and failure to report will almost certainly invalidate your policy. As such, we’re going to have to insist that you treat every collision as though it were a 100mph head-on. Better to be safe, after all, than find yourself not covered when something really disagreeable does happen. If you want to know exactly what to do, you can check out the RAC’s blog on the subject.