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Should I Name the Driver?

View profile for Michael Pace
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Over the years people have tried all sorts of different ways to avoid having to name themselves as the driver of a vehicle at the time of a motoring offence – usually speeding – and there has been a number of high-profile cases.

Sometimes this is done as a point of principle or out of ignorance of the law, but more often than not it is because the driver already has a number of points on their licence and another offence would put their licence at risk.

As a motor law specialist I am often asked by clients, who have received a combined Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and notice to name the driver, if by law they have to name the driver as requested.

And despite a lot of claims to the contrary (especially on the internet!), in short the answer is yes. If you fail to name the driver you are likely to be prosecuted and will end up with a fine and six points on your licence.

The only defence to an allegation of failing to name the driver is that it was not practicable to do so or having exercised all due diligence you were unable to do so.

The law is set out in s.172 Road Traffic Act 1988 which gives power to a Chief Constable and certain other authorities to serve a notice requiring the registered keeper of a motor vehicle to state the name and address of the driver of that vehicle at a particular time, date and place.

The request, together with the NIP, usually arrives with an allegation of speeding. The first thing that you will receive from the police is an NIP and on the reverse will be a notice to name the driver.

People often confuse the rules in respect of naming the driver (s.172) with the rules about NIPs. An NIP must be received by the registered keeper within 14 days of the offence. A notice to name the driver can be served at any time and there are no time limits for doing so. The notice will give you 28 days to reply.

The law will not accept a simple answer of “I do not know who was driving my vehicle.” This has to be backed up with a reason and that reason is likely to be challenged in court before the magistrates, who will make a decision as to whether you have used all due diligence or not. The former MP Neil Hamilton and his wife successfully argued that they knew it was one of them, but were unable to say which one.

You should also be aware that if you name a foreign driver, the police have access to border control information and will be able to establish whether or not the person you have named was in the country at the time of the alleged offence. A few years ago a Newark businessman was sent to prison for 12 months after naming a friend in the Middle East as the driver of his car. The police established that his friend was not in the country at the time and instead of facing an allegation of failing to name the driver, the businessman was prosecuted for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

If the vehicle in question is being used on company business, the law expects that the vehicle will have a log book and that each different driver will complete the book showing a start and finish time. Where the vehicle is allocated to only one person, there is no requirement to have a log book in the car because the obvious answer to who was driving will be that regular person. In that circumstance, a company would not be in a good position if it suggested that it was unable to name the driver.

If it is the case that you are sure that your vehicle was not in that location at that time, then you must write and say so. You are entitled to ask for a photograph to assist you in making sure it is actually your vehicle. Once you have established that it is your vehicle, the duty is upon you to name the driver.