When driving in Europe, one can often notice traffic jams caused by car accidents where there's very minor damage to both parties and they could easily move out of the way, however the law mandates them both to stay put and wait for the police/insurance to collect evidence about the accident. This is understandable from the perspective of people involved in an accident as no one wants to see increased insurance premiums if they're not responsible, however this is sub-optimal for all the other drivers as the time wasted in the traffic jam far surpasses the total monetary cost of any small car crash.

Are there countries where this is different and drivers are obligated to move out of the way immediately if their car remains operable?

  • 36
    "however the law mandates" Citation needed. I doubt this is actually the case in most European countries.
    – Roland
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 10:44
  • 11
    In the UK the police won't usually attend minor accidents and the usual proceedure is to exchange insurance details, move the vehicles and let the police know later (so that you can make an insurance claim). Evidence gathering is usually done by the people involved with their phone cameras (or dashcams). Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 12:52
  • 5
    This is the law in most U.S. states, at least on certain roads and in certain conditions (e.g. weather emergencies).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 17:11
  • 15
    "When driving in Europe" - Europe is a big place, comprising many countries which have different laws. In which European countries have you encountered traffic jams caused by car accidents involving minor damage?
    – Aaron F
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 2:29
  • 6
    Apart from the fact that there is no such thing as European traffic law (traffic laws are a national, not supranational responsibility), I believe the premise is false. If there is only minor damage, cars have to move out of the way in many if not all countries.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 6:54

8 Answers 8


The Straßenverkehrsordnung(Translation) in Germany says this:

§ 34 Accidents

(1) Any person involved in a traffic accident must:

  1. stop immediately;

  2. take the necessary steps to ensure traffic safety and, if there is only minor damage, move their vehicle to the edge of the carriageway;

  3. ascertain the consequences of the accident;

  4. assist injured persons (section 323c of the Penal Code);

  5. to other persons present at the scene of the accident who were involved and have suffered damage:

    a) state that they (i.e. the person referred to in the first clause) were involved in the accident; and

    b) if requested to do so, provide their own name and address, present their own driving licence and vehicle registration document and, to the best of their knowledge, provide details of their third-party insurance;

  6. a) remain at the scene of the accident until, by virtue of their own presence, it has been possible to identify their personal details, their vehicle and the nature of their involvement to the benefit of the other persons who were involved in and have suffered damage in the accident; or

    b) wait for a reasonable length of time and leave their own name and address at the scene of the accident if nobody was prepared to perform the identification;

  7. immediately facilitate subsequent identification if they have left the scene of the accident legitimately, after giving a plausible excuse or upon expiration of the waiting time (paragraph 6(b)). For this purpose, they must inform at least the persons referred to above (paragraph 6(a)) or a nearby police station that they were involved in the accident and must provide their own address, their present whereabouts as well as the registration number and location of the vehicle that was involved in the accident, which must be kept available for immediate investigation for a reasonable length of time.

For minor accidents (no injuries, no suspected criminal offence, no major disagreements between involved parties, ...) you do not have to call and wait for police (you have a right to call them but they might try to discourage you from requesting that they come to the scene). For normal traffic accidents insurance doesn't come and collect evidence at the scene, instead an appraiser will document damage to your car and look at statements and witness reports and other documentation. You can just exchange all necessary information with the other party/ies and then leave with your car (possibly using a towing service).

However, OP might refer to the specific case of an accident with a rented car. In that case, the contract with the rental service often mandates that you call police and request an official police documentation and report in case of an accident.

  • 4
    Additional information in case you want to append it: "having an accident" is a traffic violation and the police will fine the offender accordingly if called and made to fill a proper report. Most cops will show up to the scene of a minor accident (fender bender, slightly rear ended someone due to aquaplaning or something, cars moved to the side of the road to inspect for damage) and ask if you really want to be fined just to get the report in writing. I guess they hate paperwork just as much as the next guy. If you tell them you reconsidered and don't want to file a report, they will leave.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 13:10
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    Last time I cough empirically tested cough this, the fine was 35€, I am sure it's higher now. With everyone having mandatory insurance anyway, calling the police and filing a report is only done with some real damage, in case the fault is disputed, or as you already said, if a rental agreement forces one participant to do so.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 13:11
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    @nvoigt There are usually two parties to an accident. I've been the aggrieved party recently (my car was totalled) and requested that the police make a report. Obviously, I was not fined, the other party was. They admitted that they ignored a stop sign. I don't believe "having an accident" is a traffic violation. The cause of the accident is the violation. Of course, the cause might just be a violation of StVO §1.
    – Roland
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 14:12
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    @nvoigt: In Austria, §99(6)a StVO explicitly states that a traffic accident with only property damage is not to be fined. Instead, there is an explicitly fee of € 36 ("Blaulichtsteuer") for calling the police to document a traffic accident without damage to persons (with some exceptions). It's a fee, not a fine, but the idea behind it is the same (discourage people from calling the police when they are not required).
    – Heinzi
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 18:13
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    @nvoigt Can you provide any documentation for the notion that having an accident is a traffic violation? There are many traffic accidents which do not involve any action that independently constitutes a traffic violation (an overhanging tree branch falling on your car and breaking your windshield, a wheel coming off, losing control due to black ice, hitting a nail and blowing out a tyre, etc.), and I find it very hard to believe that the actual ‘act’ of having accident would in itself be considered a violation anywhere, just like falling off your bike is not considered a violation. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 9:49

This is the law in .

California Vehicle Code Section 20002(a):

The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists. Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault.

Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1000 or up to six months in jail, or both. The vehicle could also be towed and impounded, see the DMV website:

You must do the following: Move your vehicle off the street or highway if no one is injured or killed. If you do not move your vehicle or have it removed from the street or highway, any peace officer or authorized personnel may have your vehicle removed and impounded. (CVC §§22651 and 22651.05).

On some busy highways, there are signs posted to inform drivers of this rule. For instance, a Google Street View photo along I-80 W in Emeryville of a sign saying "Minor Crash / No Injuries / Safely Move Vehicles From Travel Lanes". This is an area with very heavy traffic, where traffic obstructions could cause major delays. (In fact, I found out about the rule from seeing this very sign.)

  • 10
    It's also common in the rest of the United States.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 21:38
  • Presumably the wording in 20002(a) is intended to reflect the DMV’s, in that having the vehicle moved as quickly as is feasible will be considered compliance with the requirements. For example, in a serious accident where the car will no longer start/drive, but where there are no injuries, calling a towing service to have the car removed would be good enough, since you cannot just “stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic” yourself. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 9:58
  • I don't have code references, but in Illinois there are even dedicated Crash Investigation Sites on major highways, where motorists are supposed to bring the vehicles if they are driveable. (These same highways often have Illinois DOT "minutemen" in State-owned wreckers ready to move un-driveable vehicles.)
    – Theodore
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 13:58
  • 1
    How does this work when a person involved doesn't yet know if they sustained any injury? It seems like moving the vehicle is then admitting to "not being injured" and could be used as evidence in a civil case to avoid paying damages to the injured person. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 15:08
  • @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE the law doesn't require persons who don't meet the criteria (i.e. who are injured) to do the opposite (i.e. remain on the highway) so it seems hard to imagine any attempt to use it to undermine the credibility of a claim of injury succeeding.
    – Will
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 14:46

In Spain, for example, there's no obligation to move the vehicle out of the way, but it is recommended if there are no serious injuries (minor incidents). As far as I know, there's no directives from the Traffic Department (DGT), but you can read this recommendations from official sources such as some local police departments (link in spanish, Santiago de Compostela police department).

It is also recommended from non-severe crashes on highways, since it will prevent being run over by other vehicles coming at highway speeds: link in spanish, highway consortium.

In case of a severe accident with injuries, there is an official behaviour protocol from the Spanish Traffic Department (DGT guide on accidents, in spanish). It is supposed than, in this case, the passengers of the affected vehicles are injured and so, they can't (and they shouldn't try to) move their vehicles away. The DGT advises you to not move the vehicles nor the victims either, unless there's a clear danger (if the vehicles are in flames you should try to drag the victims out of them, for example). The manual explicitly mention "danger to the victims, or to the traffic" - if a vehicle is crossed in the middle of the road in a low-visibility spot another vehicle could crash against it, so it is advisable to move it.

TL;DR In general in Spain there's no obligation to move the vehicles away, nor to keep them in place. Common sense is expected to be applied.

  • 2
    Well, the law maybe doesn't explicitly state that you have to move vehicles out of the way after an accident, but surely there is a law somewhere that says you should not block traffic unless you have a very good reason to?
    – Stef
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 7:03


in Czech Republic, "Zákon o silničním provozu" (Road-traffic law) in section "Dopravní nehoda, § 47" (Traffic accident) says


(3) Účastníci dopravní nehody jsou povinni


c) označit místo dopravní nehody,

d) umožnit obnovení provozu na pozemních komunikacích, zejména provozu vozidel hromadné dopravy osob,



(3) Participants in a traffic accident are obliged to


c) mark the place of the accident

d) allow the restoration of traffic on roads, especially the traffic of mass-transport vehicles


( see https://www.kurzy.cz/zakony/361-2000-zakon-o-silnicnim-provozu/paragraf-47/ or https://www.policie.cz/clanek/silnicni-provoz-a-dopravni-nehoda.aspx )

  • 1
    Thanks, now I wonder why cars blocking traffic is still so common in Prague... I guess the police doesn't enforce this law correctly. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 12:57

In , behavior in the event of an accident is regulated by Article 189 of the Highway Code. People involved in a road accident have the following duties, in order of importance:

  1. Safeguard traffic safety (i.e., they must avoid endangering other motorists).
  2. Do not alter traces and other evidence useful for determining responsibility for the accident.
  3. If even one of the people involved is injured, even slightly, it is necessary to call the Traffic Police (and, if necessary, other emergency services). The agents will take care of restoring traffic as soon as possible, after having carried out the necessary surveys.
  4. If there has only been material damage, it is necessary to avoid obstructing traffic (note: this is different from securing the road; other motorists can remain stuck in traffic for hours while being completely safe).

Source (in Italian) here.


In Bulgaria you can arrange without police if all of the following apply:

  • only 2 vehicles part of the incident
  • only material damages
  • both drivers agree on the incident details and fill-in a specific protocol

You call police just to get a reference number.

Later this protocol is brought to the insurance agency of the "guilty" driver.

If the above conditions are not met, then you stay in place waiting for the police. Although there is text about clearing the road but preserving traces which is not very clear how to apply.

  • 1
    Yep the same law applies in Czech Republic which causes a lot of unnecessary traffic jams in practice. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 10:58

Yes. In the UK it is recommended (even mandated?). Our highway code says

Rule 286

If you are involved in a collision which causes damage or injury to any other person, vehicle, animal or property, you MUST stop. If possible, stop in a place of relative safety (see Rule 275)

... give your own and the vehicle owner’s name and address, and the registration number of the vehicle, to anyone having reasonable grounds for requiring them

if you do not give your name and address at the time of the collision, report it to the police as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case within 24 hours.

Rule 275

If you need to stop your vehicle in the event of a breakdown or incident, try to stop in a place of relative safety. A place of relative safety is where you, your passengers and your vehicle are less likely to be at risk from moving traffic.

The safest place to stop is a location which is designed for parking. On motorways and other high-speed roads, the safest place to stop is a service area. Other places of relative safety include lay-bys, emergency areas (see Rule 270), hard shoulders (see Rule 269) Be aware that hard shoulders provide less protection than other places of relative safety because they are so close to high-speed traffic.

  • There is a similar law in Czech Republic. Unfortunately it likewise doesn’t mandate that the two vehicles immediately get out of the way to resolve their dispute without blocking the road. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 9:51
  • 2
    You'll find other sections in the highway code about not obstructing the traffic without good cause, which can even be a criminal offence. But mandating vehicles to be moved after an accident would have to be very carefully hedged, because if anybody is injured, moving them could make it much worse. Wish they'd actually enforce the laws on obstructing the highway, when protestors glue themselves to it!
    – nigel222
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 12:45
  • @nigel222 - They normally do, although there are also protections in UK law about the right to protest peacefully, even if it causes minor disruption
    – Richard
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 22:39

The law in the U.S. state of Tennessee says that drivers 'should' do this on divided, controlled-access highways (including, but not limited to Interstate highways) and removes liability for doing so.

TCA 55-10-117

(a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, a motor vehicle involved in a traffic accident and the driver of the motor vehicle shall be subject to this section.

(b) This section shall apply to any motor vehicle traffic accident that occurs on a divided, controlled access highway or interstate highway of this state.

(c) When a motor vehicle traffic accident occurs with no apparent serious personal injury or death, the driver of each motor vehicle involved in the traffic accident, or any other occupant of any such motor vehicle who possesses a valid driver license, should remove the vehicle from the immediate confines of the roadway into a safe refuge on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median, or to a place otherwise removed from the roadway whenever, in the judgment of the driver, the moving of a vehicle may be done safely and the vehicle is capable of being normally and safely driven, does not require towing, and may be operated under its own power in its customary manner without further damage or hazard to itself, to the traffic elements, or to the roadway. The driver of the motor vehicle may request any person who possesses a valid driver license to remove the motor vehicle as provided in this section, and that person may comply with the request.

(d) The driver or any other person who has removed a motor vehicle from the main traveled way of the road as provided in subsection (c) before the arrival of a law enforcement officer shall not be considered liable or at fault regarding the cause of the accident solely by reason of moving the vehicle pursuant to this section.

(e) This section does not abrogate or affect a driver's duty to file any written report that may be required by law, but compliance with the requirements of this section does not allow a driver to be prosecuted for the failure to stop and immediately report a traffic accident.

(f) This section does not abrogate or affect a driver's duty to stop and give information in accordance with law, nor does it relieve a law enforcement officer of the officer's duty to render a report in accordance with law.

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