Leaving the scene of an accident

There is a prevailing thought in the area that I live that if you get into an accident and move your car out of the roadway before the police arrive that you have committed the crime of leaving the scene of an accident. Does anyone know if this is true or not? I have looked and have been unable to find concrete evidence either way.

Opponents of this theory have two main arguments:

  1. Traffic is bad enough as it is, so getting out of everyone’s way is just courteous.
  2. Stopped cars on a roadway constitute a hazard for other drivers as well as being dangerous for those involved in the accident.

Proponents of this theory argue that if you move the vehicles, the police won’t be able to determine fault. This is not a no-fault state.

Clearly, I’m only talking about accidents where no one is seriously injured.


For non-injury accidents where both vehicles are drivable, many areas won’t even send the police. But I’d check the local regulations. Ask a policeman, they should know.

+1 to texases’ comment.
The opinions of the folks on this site are not what really matters in a situation like the one described by the OP.

What does matter is what the local and/or state authorities in the OP’s neck of the woods have to say.

I’ve even seen signs TELLING you to move vehicles from the travel lanes on freeways and high traffic areas.
But still, you need to check your local laws…not ours.

^Yeah, you’re supposed to blockade Main St because you bent some metal and cracked a tailight?!?

Especially with cell-phone cameras and such, there’s no reason to be a nuisance to the motoring public in cases with no injuries, especially if fault is obvious. In fact, I think you could be cited for “obstructing traffic” if you DON’T clear the travel lanes!

“Leaving the scene” is more about hit-and-run.

I know I have seen signs up and down the east coast that say something to the effect of “if you are involved in a fender move out of the traffic lanes if possible”. And this is a direct quote from the Virginia Drivers manual.
"If you are involved in a traffic crash, you must:

Stop at the scene of the crash or as close to the scene
as possible without blocking traffic. You may move the
vehicles before the police arrive if the vehicles create a
traffic hazard"

But as already stated above, you need to check in the jurisdiction you are in.

@PvtPublic, I guess you meant to post a picture?

In Maryland, the first thin the police do is to tell the folks in the accident to get out of the roadway.

In Pittsburgh and most of Pennsylvania you are to move off the road way for an accident that does not have injuries or major damage. One suburb of Pittsburgh wants the police to investigate every accident no matter how minor. So like @texases says, it is best to check with your local jurisdiction to make sure you do not get some small town cops nose out of joint.

@jtsanders, yeah but it didn’t work out so I quoted the VA drivers manual. Sorry.

No problem. I just wanted to make sure you got to post the picture if you wanted to.

Insurance companies used to advise their customers to not move the vehicle, but many states and local municipalities are requiring the drivers to move their cars out of the way IF they can.

I believe most cops would define leaving the scene of the accident and being unable to find you when they arrive.

OK passed a law not many years ago stating that if the accident is non-injury the vehicles should be moved out of the traffic path. There’s a couple of issues I have with this.

Once the vehicles are moved any obvious fault on the part of someone may not be so obvious anymore and that person who quickly admitted fault may have a change of heart later that day and decide that the other person was really the cause.

And who determines if there are injuries or not? About 5-6 years ago my daughter was rear ended while sitting at a red light by an SUV moving probably 15 MPH. The SUV suffered a minor scuffed up nose and the daughter’s car suffered a cracked rear valance and broken taillamps.
No injuries at the time; supposedly.

A week later the daughter was having frequent headaches and neck pain now and then. After some preliminary doctor visits she was then sent to do the cat scan, MRI routine and discovered that she has a vertebrae injury. This has gone on for 5+ years now and the neurosurgeons do not recommend surgery so she has to live with headaches and neck pain to the point she has to take off work now and then from her job as an accountant.
Even driving a car a moderate distance (say 100 miles) can be rough on her.

You need to check with your state’s DMV. Vehicle statutes are state statutes, and they vary by state.

In Calif I don’t think you’d be cited for “leaving the scene” if you just pulled your car to the nearest safest spot out of traffic and made yourself known to the officers when they arrived.

texases Said, “For non-injury accidents where both vehicles are drivable, many areas won’t even send the police. But I’d check the local regulations. Ask a policeman, they should know.”

That has always been my understanding of leaving the scene of an accident, that the defining component is whether or not there are injuries.

Hit a car or a pedestrian and injure people and then take-off and you’re in a heap of trouble. Leaving the scene of an injury accident is a more serious crime, as it should be. I’d say that’s also a factor in whether to move the vehicle(s) or not, too.

It’s often difficult to access the extent of collision related injuries at the scene and by leaving the vehicles, better faster emergency first-aid can be given and if an investigation is warranted the investigators would benefit from the vehicles not being moved.


Yes for heavens sake get it out of the way so as not to cause more mayhem on the road. As long as they are drive-able and not serious injuries. And the police report is going to help you how anyway?

Police will only do reconstruction of an accident if there are serious inuries or death involved. Otherwise, they’ll just tell you (over the phone.) to swap driver’s info, and let the insurance companies sort it out.

“made yourself known to the officers when they arrived.”

Ha ha

A few years ago my my was hit hard by some idiot trying to pass her, and he smacked right into her, because he had no driving skills to speak of. I think his driver’s license may have been the prize in the crackerjack box

Both cars were clearly totaled, and nobody was hurt

But my mom was babysitting my nephew and his friend that day, and the kids were screaming. They weren’t screaming, because they were hurt, but because they were just kids. They wanted to be somewhere else, doing something fun

Anyways, a pedestrian saw the kids screaming and called the police

My mom exchanged information with the other driver, and eventually left. The car looked like hell. It was all pushed in, and the exhaust was dragging, but it was driveable

Anyways, 6 hours later, the police left a message on the home phone saying they had just been at the scene of the accident, and there was nobody there. They wanted to know why we didn’t wait for them

All was sorted out in the end. The guy had legitimate car insurance. He was found at fault, and my mom got a very generous check for the totaled car


Move cars to a safe area is always preferred. If cars are still drivable and you create a hazzard, you put everyone at risk. It’s OK. But, not to a Walmart parking lot two miles away. But, always, always , always notify the authorities. Let them decide if the accident is worth their time. That’s not your call. Don’t assume ahead of time the “type” of accident. Everyone has a cell phone…just call when one occurs. Why complicate the matter ? No one involved should decide at the scene if there is no personal injury that can show up later !! That’s up to the authorities.

Moving your vehicle off the road is NOT leaving the scene of an accident. Leaving the scene of an accident is not waiting around for the police (if any were called) or to exchange information with any other parties involved.

I was involved in one the week after I moved to NH. Young woman rear ended my 1yr truck when I was parked at a stop-light. I told her I was calling the police since there was at least $1500 in damage. She said she didn’t have time to wait…and handed me sheet of paper with her name and drivers license number. I wrote down her license plate number. Police showed up and I told them what happened. They arrested her for leaving the scene of an accident. Turned out she didn’t have a valid drivers license…and of course no insurance.