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I was charged with failure to stop after an accident after I hit a street
sign; I don’t understand how I was supposed to leave my information
on the sign.
Answer: Ohio has a law that addresses accidents on public roads and highways (R.C. 4549.02); accidents on roads other than public roads and highways (R.C. 4549.021); and accidents that involve damage to real property (land) or personal
property attached to real property (mailbox, lamp post, or the like) (R.C. 4549.03).
In the case where the driver of a vehicle has an accident that results
in damage to real property (i.e. you tear up someone’s yard) or
personal property attached to real property (i.e. you run over a mailbox),
the driver must immediately stop and take reasonable steps to locate and
notify the owner or person in charge of the property of damage; further
the driver must notify that owner of the driver’s name and address,
the registration number of the vehicle the driver is driving, and upon
request and if available, the driver should display his or her driver’s
license or commercial driver’s license. If the driver can’t
locate the property owner after a reasonable search, the driver must contact
local law enforcement (police, sheriff) where the accident occurred within
The failure to take reasonable steps to leave your identifying information
could result in a charge of failure to stop after an accident pursuant
to R.C. 4549.03 – a misdemeanor of the first degree. In addition
to the potential of up to 180 days in jail and up to $2500 fine; moreover,
a driver charged with failure to stop after an accident involving property
damage must show proof of financial responsibility or face court-ordered
restitution for any damages.
In the instance where you’ve hit a street sign or lamp post, the
property owner is the city, township, or county that you are in. In that
case, contacting the local police or county sheriff and providing the
necessary information would suffice as providing the notice required under the law.
If a parked car had been struck rather than a street sign, the driver would
have the responsibility to leave a note in a conspicuous place in or on
the unoccupied or unattended vehicle. The note should contain the following
information: the driver’s name and address; the name and address
of the owner of the motor vehicle; the registered number of the motor
vehicle; and driver’s license or commercial driver’s license
Note that in the case where an accident occurs with an occupied car, the
requirements are different depending on the setting and the severity of
the crash. On a public roadway, a driver has a duty to stop and remain
at the scene, and further, to contact law enforcement and emergency services
if the other driver or any other person is injured.
See, R.C. 4549.02. On a nonpublic roadway the driver has a duty to stop and
provide information to the property owner or driver, but may also provide
that information to local law enforcement within twenty-four (24) hours
depending on the circumstances.
In sum, a good rule would be to always stop and provide your identifying
information, even if only as a note inside the mailbox that you struck;
call for emergency help if the situation demands it (because of injury
or downed electrical lines, or other dangerous situation); and notify
law enforcement, either through by contacting police in the moment or
filing a report within twenty-four (24) hours of the incident.