Is calling the police always necessary in the scene of a traffic accident?

calling the police

Should we call the police when being involved even in a minor car accident? Yes, we should. You might think, "It's not critical to call the police because no one is injured." Or, the other driver might say, "It's not a big accident, so let's solve it through simple discussion." However, calling the police is legal duty even in a minor traffic accident in Japan. 

Telephone Numbers to call for the police

In the case of an apparently urgent and serious accident, call 110 which is the police's emergency support center. If you don't need urgent support, call the local police office. If you are not sure with its telephone number, call 03-3503-8484 which is Police Center for Foreigners in Japan. They will offer advice on what to do.

In the following chapters, let's see the detail of why you should call the police even in a minor accident.

Why it's illegal not to call the police

If you don't report the traffic accident to the police, it is a violation of the Road Traffic Act in Japan. Article 72 stipulates the obligation to take emergency measures when a traffic accident occurs. And it includes the obligation to report it to the police.

Article 72 (1) In the event of a traffic accident, the drivers and staff members of the vehicles and streetcars involved in the traffic accident (hereinafter each such person is referred to in this Section as a "driver or staff member") must immediately stop driving and take the necessary measures, such as aiding injured persons and preventing road hazards. In such a case, the driver of a vehicle or streetcar (or a staff member, if the death or injury of the driver compels it; the same applies hereinafter in the following paragraph) must report to a police officer at the scene or at the nearest police station (including police booths and police satellite offices; the same applies hereinafter in the following paragraph) giving the date, time, and place where the traffic accident occurred; the number of injured persons and the extent of their injuries; damaged objects and the extent of the damage; the loads carried by the vehicles and streetcars involved in the accident; and measures taken in connection with the accident.

More simply, Article 72 states three obligations you have to follow:

(1) Relief and protection of injured persons
(2) Prevention of Dangers on Roads
(3) Reporting to the police

If they find out you didn't report to the police, they consider it's a violation of the law. Imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of more than 50,000 yen could be imposed.

Prevent being suspected as a hit-and-run driver

If the traffic accident seems not serious, the at-fault driver might leave the scene. However, injuries or property damages sometimes appear later. If the victim wishes, the police possibly handle the case as a hit-and-run case and conduct an investigation, looking for the at-fault driver.

Road Traffic Law Art. 72 stipulates relief and protection of injured persons, prevention of dangers on roads, and reporting to the police. If you violate any one of it, the accident is likely considered as hit-and-run even if you didn't literally hit and run. 

The following are the penalties of the hit-and-run case.


Hit-and-run in human injury traffic accident

Hit-and-run in a property damage traffic accident

Criminal penalty

Imprisonment of up to ten years or fine up to 1 million

Imprisonment of up to one year or fine of up to 100,000 yen

Administrative penalty

35 points

5 points

Civil penalty

Compensation for property damage

Compensation for treatment feeConsolation money for injury

Compensation for property damage

The criminal penalty is for when you don’t give relief and protection of injured persons in the accident scene.

Officially prove the traffic accident

Calling the police is an important opportunity to officially prove the accident. If you skip the step, you might not be able to get an insurance payout.

Let's say you find some scratches on the surface of the car or injuries on your body a few days after a traffic accident. In this case, you might want to apply for an insurance payout. However, in many cases, the insurance company won’t pay compensation when you cannot officially prove the traffic accident.

Traffic Accident Certificate is the only document officially proving the traffic accident. It is usually issued upon a report from the police. So, that's the reason why we should call the police in any traffic accidents.