Passenger failed to make the drivers details known following offence

03 May 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

Can a section 172 RTA Notice be served on the passenger of a car following a collision and the driver has made off?

Where two friends are travelling in a car together as driver and front seat passenger (FSP) and the driver commits an offence following which s/he abandons and makes off from the car, would the FSP commit an offence under Sec 172 if s/he failed to make the drivers details known to the Police.

Answer:

Section 172(2) states:

'Where the driver of a vehicle is alleged to be guilty of an offence to which this section applies -

(a) the person keeping the vehicle shall give such information as to the identity of the driver as he may be required to give by or on behalf of a chief officer of police or the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police Force, and

(b) any other person shall if required as stated above give any information which it is in his power to give and may lead to the identification of the driver.'

In our opinion the wording of section 172(2)(b) would apply to a passenger in a vehicle –

if the driver committed an offence to which section 172 applied

the police needed to ascertain who was driving the vehicle; and

it is within the power of the passenger to give such information.

This view is supported by the case of Hunter v Mann [1974] RTR 338 in which the court upheld a conviction under s.172 of a doctor who had refused to disclose the identity of a man and a girl who had been treated by him following an accident in which a motor car which had been taken without the owner’s consent had been involved. It held that the obligation under s.172(2)(b) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to give any information 'which it is in his power to give' applied to a doctor who had the information as a result of a professional consultation. The doctor could not say that by reason of the ethics of the medical profession it was not within his power to give the required information. The court cited with approval the BMA Handbook which states:

'A doctor should refrain from disclosing to a third party information which he has learnt professionally or indirectly in his professional relationship with a patient … subject to (the following exceptions) … where the information is required by law.'

Following Hunter v Mann, we would therefore be of the opinion that if the passenger is able to give the identity of the driver then they must do so under the requirements of section 172(2)(b) and accordingly would commit an offence if s/he failed to make the details known to the police.

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