Motor vehicular accidents involve motor vehicles and result in bodily injury to any person, or damage to the property of any person. These accidents occur anywhere at any time and can result in fatalities. According to PennDOT, Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of accidents and fatalities compared to other counties in Pennsylvania. It is important to understand vehicular crashes, their causes, how to report them and the responsibilities of law enforcement. Understanding these actions may decrease the number of accidents and assist with evaluating information listed on reports related to the crashes, to determine if any violations occurred. Factual information is key in law enforcement investigating the scene of an accident.

Because of the high rate of accidents and crashes in Philadelphia, it is important to understand the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD’s) process and responsibilities. According to Pennsylvania law, vehicular accidents involving death, injury, and/or damage to a vehicle such that it cannot be driven without further damage and requires towing must be investigated by law enforcement. Investigating accidents is an important method used to develop crash prevention and reduce the number of crashes which occur daily.

The following divisions of PPD are responsible for investigating accidents

  • The Crash Investigation District (CID) (former name – Accident Investigation District (AID)) (investigates various accidents including fatal).
  • The Detective Division of Occurrence and/or the Homicide Unit (investigates accidents which are suspected to be the result of a deliberate act or suicide).
  • The Homicide Unit, Crime Scene Unit, and/or the Detective Division of Occurrence (assists CID in the investigation of vehicle crashes, whenever necessary).

In addition to the PPD divisions listed above, there are outside police agencies which operate in Philadelphia and are authorized to respond to accidents. While these agencies are allowed to respond to accidents and prepare reports, they are not allowed to access PPD systems.

Law enforcement officers are responsible for responding to and investigating reportable crashes—vehicular accidents involving injury or death, or damage to a vehicle involved in a crash that cannot be driven under its own power and requires towing. Non-reportable crashes are accidents in which death or injury to a person does not occur, or where towing is not required. Additionally, if the crash occurred on private property and was intentional, it is non-reportable.


It is important to understand the investigation process and reporting a vehicle crash. Especially in Philadelphia where vehicular crashes occur frequently. For more information regarding the process and PPD’s responsibilities regarding vehicular accidents, review the PPD’s written Directive 9.6: Vehicular Crashes.

A document which informs citizens on what to expect when crashes are reported to PPD including the responsibilities of law enforcement. An overview is provided regarding PPD Directive 9.6 (Vehicular Accidents).