If you witness a traffic crime, accident or incident while driving there are two numbers you can call: 999 if it’s an emergency, or 101 if it’s not an emergency. Sometimes you will have to use your judgement.
The following is designed to be a guide but obviously there are huge grey areas.
Emergency traffic incidents and crimes
Dial 999 if:
- Someone is in danger because of a road rage incident
- Someone has been seriously injured in a traffic accident and requires immediate medical attention
- A person is driving extremely dangerously (e.g. the wrong way down a motorway, or there’s someone riding on the top of a car, etc)
- An accident has happened and you suspect the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or is uninsured or unlicensed.
Non-emergency traffic incidents and crimes
Dial 101 if:
- You witness continuous erratic driving, but not necessarily dangerous driving
- You are in or come across a non-injury crash
- There is a vehicle broken down in a dangerous place or it is blocking a lane
- There is an obstruction on the road or an animal is trapped (e.g. a sheep on a central reservation)
- Another driver crashes into a stationary object and drives off, e.g. another vehicle, a fence, etc
If you are reporting another driver it’s important that you have as much information about the driver and vehicle as possible:
- Number plate (it helps if you know the NATO phonetic alphabet to describe it on the phone to avoid confusion, e.g. alfa, bravo, charlie for A, B, C)
- Colour, make and model of the vehicle
- Specific location where you saw the vehicle being driven (if you’re in a rural area, try to give landmarks if you’re unsure of the exact road)
- What the driver was doing that is the traffic offence (e.g. speeding, tailgating, lane-hogging)
- Any information you can give about the driver, e.g. female, Caucasian, around 40, black hair
Using your mobile phone to make an emergency call while driving
If you are the driver and it’s either unsafe to stop or you need to continue to follow a vehicle to describe it then you can use a hand-held mobile phone while driving to report the emergency on a 999 or 112 call. The police specifically omit 101 calls from this exception in their documentation.
Reporting antisocial driving behaviour
A list of all the regional police forces is here.
Different regional police forces have their own initiatives for reporting antisocial driving, abandoned vehicles, etc. For example, Operation Crackdown in Sussex has a simple form you can fill in.
This type of reporting can be for general careless or inconsiderate driving, using a mobile phone, parking illegally or inconsiderately, driving a vehicle which would obviously fail an MoT, etc.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.