What If a Driver & Passenger Switch Seats?

Following an auto accident, you may notice the driver of the other vehicle attempting to switch seats with a passenger. This may occur for a myriad of reasons, most of which involve the driver and passenger believing they will escape certain legal consequences. However, if law enforcement officers discover this switch, the involved parties will face serious legal ramifications.

If you witness a driver and passenger attempting to switch seats, whether during a traffic stop, or following an auto accident; notify local law enforcement immediately.

Why Might a Driver and Passenger Switch Seats?

There are several reasons why a driver and passenger might agree to switch seats following an auto accident. For instance, the original driver may not hold a valid license; in DUI cases, the driver may have believed their passenger had a better chance passing a breathalyzer test; or a driver and passenger may switch seats if the driver is not a legal citizen; fearing the potential resulting legal action. 

Police and Witness Awareness

When the police are on the scene of an auto accident; or even conducting an ordinary traffic stop; they will be watching the occupants of a vehicle for ‘furtive movements’, movements that indicate potential criminal activity. If a driver and passenger attempt to switch seats, both parties will be issued a citation.

If a switch occurs before a police officer arrives on the scene of an auto accident, the switch may be discovered during the accident investigation. Investigating officials will compare the statements offered by all involved parties and will examine the injuries sustained (if any); searching for any discrepancies in the statements given by the driver and passenger, and also, the injuries sustained. The driver and involved passenger(s) may face serious legal consequences if investigators discover any discrepancies.

However, parties that attempt to switch seats after an accident has occurred, or during a traffic stop, should not discount the possibility of eyewitnesses. It is likely that someone will have noticed the attempted switch, and will report it to local law enforcement. 


If law enforcement officers discover that a driver and passenger switched, or attempted to switch, seats after an auto accident, both may receive DUI charges (if applicable) or reckless driving charges. Furthermore, in Utah (according to the circumstances of the case), all of the vehicle’s occupants may be charged with a class B misdemeanor; punishable by one year jail time. 

Furthermore, if the party(s) that switched seats attempted to file an insurance claim, they may receive charges of insurance fraud or perjury.  In Utah, the penalties for insurance fraud varies based on the value of the fraudulent insurance claim. Claims valued under $1,500 will be met with a misdemeanor charge; those between $1,500 and $5,000 will be met with a third-degree felony charge; and those whose value exceeds $5,000 will be met with a second-degree felony charge; punishable by up to 15 years prison time.

Were you or someone you know involved in a recent auto accident? Call Auto Accident Care Network now at 801-683-1948 to connect with a live care advocate. Our team at AACN can connect you to trusted attorneys and doctors to schedule a free legal consultation, a free thirty-minute massage, and a no-cost medical exam!

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