Announcement comes after a four-year trial led by RAC Foundation
A Road Safety Investigation Branch is to be set up for the first time, following a multi-year pathfinder project led by the RAC Foundation and funded by the Department for Transport and National Highways.
A team of specialised investigators will be recruited to take a thematic look at collisions on the road network in an attempt to reduce crash-related death, injury and delay by identifying themes and common threads across incidents.
The unit will also look at the safety implications of changing technology, including the arrival of driverless vehicles.
The branch will sit alongside similar existing bodies for the rail, aviation and maritime sectors.
In its response to the public consultation on the establishment of such a branch the government says there is an ongoing discussion with devolved administrations as to whether the branch could operate across Great Britain or the UK.
According to ministers, “the branch will not identify blame or liability and so does not replace police investigation. It will instead draw on all the available evidence to make recommendations to improve road safety and mitigate or prevent similar incidents in the future.”
Investigators will use data and evidence from a wide variety of sources including:
- Collision Reporting and Sharing System (CRASH)
- Forensic Collision Investigation reports
- Prevention of Future Death reports
- Insurance companies
- Vehicle manufacturers
- the emergency services
- the NHS
The announcement follows the conclusion of a four-year pilot programme – the Road Collision Investigation Project – which was led by the RAC Foundation and involved three police forces: Dorset, Devon and Cornwall; Humberside; and West Midlands.
The project received £480,000 in funding from the Department for Transport which was matched by National Highways. It was backed by the National Police Chiefs Council.
The RAC Foundation’s final report on the project – including the business case for a new branch – is available here.
The RAC Foundation has been arguing for a Road Safety Investigation Branch for many years. In 2017 it published Towards an Accident Investigation Branch for Roads.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:
“Over the past four years the Foundation has run the Road Collision Investigation Project with funding from government and National Highways. Working with three police forces and many other experts we have demonstrated that there is, as we suspected, a strong case for implementing a fresh approach to the way we investigate the causes of death and injury on the road network, which is why we are delighted with this announcement.
“After a steady decline in roads deaths up to 2012, for the past decade the number of annual fatalities has sat stubbornly around the 1,750 mark. Whilst the Covid-related cut in traffic meant fewer people killed, post-pandemic we are likely to see the death toll rise again.
“To get back on a downward course we need to do something radically different which is exactly what this new approach is about.
“The rail, aviation and marine investigation branches are internationally renowned. If the roads version has anything like their success then we will all benefit from having markedly safer roads.”
In 2020, 1,460 people died on Britain’s roads according to government data. This was 17% lower than the 1,752 figure for 2019 but was likely to have been the result of reduced travel because of Covid.
After a downward trend, annual road deaths remained pretty constant between 2012 and 2019.
Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
07711 776448 | [email protected]
Notes to Editors:
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:www.racfoundation.org