The Government has announced a three-year trial under which dedicated investigation teams will be deployed to UK roads to analyse the cause of road collisions.
It will provide £480,000 for the RAC Foundation to lead the trial of what it called an ‘innovative’ new approach to road casualty investigation alongside police forces, with teams carrying out in-depth research in selected cases ‘to get a better understanding of what is really causing collisions on our roads’.
The trial will analyse collisions in three regions over three years, drawing on the example of the investigation branches for rail, maritime and aviation.
The RAC Foundation said it has campaigned for a different approach to crash investigation for many years. Its director, Steve Gooding, made the case for such an approach to road collisions in the October 2017 issue of Highways magazine.
Responding to the Government’s announcement of a trial, he said: ‘We are keen to seize the opportunity to work with the DfT, the police and others to explore the scope for learning more about the causes of the road crashes that continue to blight – and curtail – so many lives, in particular to establish the practicalities, costs and full benefits of tackling and pre-empting them more effectively.
‘This project is aimed at testing whether there is value to be gained from taking a different, systematic, national approach to the analysis of road crash data, drawing on the best practice of the Accident Investigation Branches (AIBs) for rail, maritime and aviation.
‘However, roads are very different to other modes – sadly the numbers involved mean that detailed investigation of every single crash on the road network would be impractical.
‘The shape of each of the existing AIBs is tailored to the relevant sector, which tends to be an established industry with a “closed network”, whereas on roads we are dealing with millions of individual drivers making tens of millions of trips daily – so simply replicating any of those existing models will not work.’
The Foundation pointed out that currently the priority of police forces is to investigate crashes with the intention of identifying criminal culpability and bringing individuals to account.
It said the cash will be spent helping selected police forces recruit additional staff to collect and collate collision data, which will then be analysed to identify and understand common themes and patterns that result in death and injury. It added that the resulting insight could then help shape future policymaking.