Joining the data dots to reduce road deaths07 Feb 2024

Collision data and medical information sharing could lead to a better understanding of the causes and costs of road traffic collisions

Greater sharing of collision data and medical information about crash victims could lead to a much better understanding of the causes and the costs – human and financial – of death and injury on the country’s roads, and hence improve safety.

Crash and casualty data is routinely collected by the police who attend most major incidents or are at least made aware of them. It is then published by the Department for Transport through a system called STATS19.

However, to get a more rounded picture of collisions and harm on the road network this should be better linked to other sources of data, particularly injury data collected in the national medical dataset, Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), and that recorded by the ambulance service and other parties involved in the aftermath of road crashes.

Ultimately, those all those working in the road safety arena – not least those involved in health provision, law enforcement, transport policy and vehicle design – would benefit from greater data co-ordination and cross-referencing.

That is one conclusion of a report – Data Linkage in Road Safety – authored by Seema Yalamanchili, a general surgeon and a clinical research fellow at the Imperial College London Institute of Global Health Innovation, completed as part of the RTI-AID project (more information in notes to editors).

The project has been funded by the RAC Foundation and the FIA Road Safety Grant Programme, supported by the FIA Foundation.

A more co-ordinated approach would help answer some of the questions that are key to reducing road casualties and improving health outcomes, such as:

  • Are the right road casualties being triaged to the right centres?
  • Why do some demographic groups fare worse than others following similar collision circumstances?
  • What medical interventions can be introduced to improve clinical outcomes for particular injury types?

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.2 million people are killed annually on roads around the globe.

Europe has been relatively successful in cutting death and injury on the roads. This has been in large part down to the ‘safe system’ approach built on five pillars: safe vehicles, safe road use, safe roads, safe speeds, and post-crash response.

By 2020, the safest roads in Europe were in Norway (17 deaths per million), Sweden (20 deaths per million) and the UK (23 deaths per million).

However, 1,695 people still died on Britain’s roads in 2022 and over the past decade or so the annual number of fatalities has plateaued rather than continue to decline.

Whilst most attention is given to the number of people killed, for each fatality there is estimated to be at least five more who receive life-changing injuries putting huge pressure not just on victims and their families but also health care systems and the public finances.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Police investigations of road crashes concentrate on gathering evidence that could lead to a prosecution for causing an incident, rather than exploring the causes of why it happened.

“Medical data is focused on the condition of the patient on arrival into the health system in order to identify the right treatment rather than capturing the reasons for the nature and severity of their injuries.

“That’s why we need to build a bigger picture of road collisions and their effects from the currently fragmented data. We should not underestimate the difficulty in getting access to all the data and then joining it together by incident. But nor should we underestimate the possible road safety benefits of doing so.

“Linking these data-sets would be the sort of analytical activity that a Road Collision Investigation Branch would be expected to pursue in order to develop a well-informed view of the causes, consequences and costs of road-related casualties.”

Seema Yalamanchili, the report author, said:

“As clinicians dealing with patients seriously injured following road collisions, we have made significant progress in how to effectively save lives, but there’s more that could be done. To do this we need a systematic understanding of how the particular circumstances of the collision impacts injury patterns. Studying this relationship not only allows us to optimise emergency care response but also supports the design of better preventative strategies to reduce major injury.”

“Researchers have good access to national linked data about risk factors and outcomes for health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, but frustratingly we are still working with a fragmented and siloed approach to the capture and collation of road safety data. This can be overcome in a way that respects the need for personal data to be properly protected. Given the eruption in digital information and huge strides made in the development of analytical tools to harness valuable insights, doing so should be a priority.”



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 07711 776448

Notes to editors:

The report can be downloaded here:

About the author:

Seema Yalamanchili is a General Surgeon and a Clinical Research Fellow at the Imperial College London Institute of Global Health Innovation. Her clinical work is based in London, where she has trained in various major trauma centres, and specialises in the care of the severely injured. Her academic background is in global health and major trauma, with her doctoral studies exploring innovative approaches to road collision data. Her work studies both existing and novel data sources and analysis to see how they can augment road safety understanding and intervention, particularly from a healthcare perspective.

About the project:

This report summarises the findings of the Road Traffic Injury – Analytics for Integrated Data (RTI–AID) project which has sought to assess how a range of data sources could be better harnessed to contribute to UK road safety. This included attempting new ways of integrating routinely collected health and transport data as well as ascertaining the potential contributions of a range of new data sources to UK road safety. The project has been delivered by Imperial College London / Imperial College Healthcare Trust and was funded by the RAC Foundation and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) via their Road Safety Grants Programme. More information about RTI-AID can be found here:–analytics-for-integrated-data-rti-aid/

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: