As the number of speed and traffic light enforcement cameras on our roads increases, so too have the number of notices being issued by the police requiring the registered keeper of a vehicle to tell them who was driving at the time of an alleged offence.
Failure to provide this information when required to do so is an offence punishable by six penalty points on your licence and a fine.
The police have powers to require registered keepers of vehicles (or others) to provide details of the driver under the Road Traffic Act 1988. However, what the police will not tell you is that Section 172(4) of the Act states that a person shall not be guilty “if he shows that he did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained who the driver of the vehicle was”.
While this does not give keepers of vehicles carte blanche to lend out their vehicles to whoever they wish and then claim ignorance, it does mean that if there were three or four potential drivers of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence, then you may be able to request photographic evidence from the police to assist you in ascertaining who was actually driving.
If you are the keeper of the vehicle and you receive a Section 172 (S172) notice, then the onus is on you to do everything you reasonably can to establish who was driving. If you are still unable to ascertain the identity of the driver, then you should provide details of all the potential drivers, including names and addresses, to the police to enable them to send out relevant notices to each one of those individuals.
Provided you have done everything in your power to ascertain the identity of the driver and have acted reasonably throughout then you may be able to rely upon the statutory defence in court. However, it should be noted that courts have become extremely suspicious of keepers who claim they do not know who was driving their vehicle at the time of the alleged offence and will need persuading that you acted reasonably both at the time of lending the vehicle out to the other driver and subsequently when responding to the S172 notice.
Jeremy Sirrell is a partner at Palmers Solicitors, specialising in road traffic matters.