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New calls for root and branch review of road crash investigations

15 June 2009

A fundamental review into the way road accidents are investigated has been called for by the RAC Foundation. The organisation claims that many of the 36,781 road deaths recorded over the last 11 years might have been avoided if road crashes were thoroughly investigated along the lines of fatal air, rail and marine accidents.

Government figures show that in the last 11 years 337 people have died in UK air accidents, 114 have died in train accidents and 53 people have been killed in UK territorial waters or on UK registered vessels.

For each of these accidents there was provision for an exhaustive inquiry by the Air, Rail or Marine Accident Investigation Branches.

Yet, astonishingly says the Foundation, when it comes to accidents on the UK’s roads there is no provision for a similar body to uncover what happened and then make safety recommendations to prevent the same type of incident reoccurring.

Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: “Historically road accidents are analysed by individual police forces with the emphasis placed on finding out if anyone has broken the law. Identifying the underlying causes of crashes seems to be of secondary importance.

The Foundation’s call coincided with its publication of ‘Transport Safety: Is The Law An Ass?’ by Dr Chris Elliott, a system engineer and a barrister.

He said: “In 1972 the groundbreaking Robens report revolutionised workplace safety and led to the creation of a coherent and rational legal structure that has saved hundreds of lives. It is time to have a similar root and branch review of the way transport safety policy is implemented and co-ordinated. We have to challenge the global trend towards criminalising accidents and their investigation.”