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Towards an Accident Investigation Branch for Roads

6 January 2018

The RAC Foundation has recently published ‘ Towards an Accident Investigation Branch for Roads?’ by its director Steve Gooding.

It is a short think piece calling for the establishment of better procedures for the investigation of road collisions.

Rather than concentrating on the case for change per se, the report focuses on the practicalities of how a start might be made. Three possible approaches are suggested. These are not the only options, but all three would have the potential to be able to be put into practice relatively swiftly as ‘pathfinders’.

RoadSafe fully supports the approach being urged by the RAC Foundation - to do something to move towards a more systematic approach .

As a starting point, Steve Gooding suggests three ways that pilot schemes could be established. He says:

  • “The creation of a dedicated analytical unit within the Department for Transport (DfT) should be relatively quick and easy to set up, and whilst not being independent nor having the resource to conduct individual investigations could still compile, collate and analyse the huge amount of information already collected.
  • If DfT provided some modest seed corn funding it would be possible to envisage a local or regional pilot involving one or more highway authorities and their associated police constabularies acting together on a voluntary basis. Not a model that would reveal the bigger, national picture, but still able to work through how to manage the tangle of civil and criminal liabilities.
  • And then there’s the option of Highways England establishing a unit, directly funded but operating at arm’s length, to focus on the strategic road network. Highways England’s network is not the riskiest in road safety terms, but when things do go wrong both the safety and the economic impacts can be severe – high-speed crashes involving the heaviest vehicles often with damage to carriageways and hours of frustrating tailbacks.''

We fully support Steve's comment that, "There comes a time in any long-running debate when an idea either runs out of steam or finally begins to gain traction. We believe that moment is near on the argument for developing a better way to investigate the causes of road crashes, and so we add the Foundation’s voice to those of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety and other safety organisations, and to Sir Peter Bottomley’s, for this fresh ‘do-something’ option – an idea whose time has surely come.”

The paper is available here.

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