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Unexpected charges

Avoid charges hiding in the small print

Drivers already wrestling with high fuel costs, parking fees and toll charges could face additional, and probably unexpected charges in the event of an accident, breakdown or theft, thanks to the myriad of small print in motoring legislation.

These are charges that often come as a double whammy to drivers already facing hefty repair costs following an incident or accident.

The costs can be significant, ranging from tens of pounds to hundreds or in extreme cases thousands, depending on the type and extent of the damage or disruption caused by the incident.
When hidden costs can bite
  • a broken down vehicle deposits fuel or oil on the road
  • a car has to be statutorily removed from a motorway
  • a stolen and recovered vehicle is transferred to a place of safety by the police
  • an accident results in damage to highway authority infrastructure such as a barrier or road sign

Charging in such cases is perfectly legitimate and backed by legislation but this does not prevent it from coming as a nasty surprise to a driver who receives a bill.


Section 149 of the Highways Act 1980 gives the Highways Authority the power to clean the road and recover its expenses from the person causing the obstruction/nuisance. Charges should be related to reinstatement costs

The Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles (Prescribed Sums and Charges) Regulations 2008 lays down charges ranging from £150 to £6000 depending on the type of vehicle and the nature of the incident.

Damage to third party property, which includes highway infrastructure, must be reported otherwise it is in itself an offence which attracts five to ten penalty points or a disqualification, a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months imprisonment. The Highway Authority can also recover the cost of damage from the driver.

If things do go wrong, Motor Codes provides a free consumer advice and conciliation service along with access to independent arbitration.

Are you covered?

Thankfully for some these additional costs may be recoverable as part of an insurance claim. Drivers should always check with their insurer but may end up paying the bill themselves though, depending on cover and the specifics of the incident.

AA comment

The AA believes that drivers should be made more aware that these charges can be applied.

The AA advises drivers involved in any incident of the type described above to try to keep a check on what happens at the roadside, during conversations with officials and check any bills received.

Drivers are free to challenge the charges if they feel there are extenuating circumstances but no official appeal system exists.


(23 September 2013)