Plan for new body to investigate road crashes

It would operate in a similar way to existing independent bodies which investigate air, maritime and rail accidents.

Police at the scene of a vehicle crash in Edinburgh
Police at the scene of a vehicle crash in Edinburgh

Vehicle crashes could be investigated by a new organisation under Government plans to boost road safety.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced it is consulting on proposals to establish a Road Collision Investigation Branch (RCIB).

It would operate in a similar way to existing independent bodies which investigate air, maritime and rail accidents.

An RCIB would conduct investigations on certain themes and probe specific incidents to establish causes and make safety recommendations.

The DfT said it launched the consultation due to the “huge developments” taking place across the transport sector, such as the roll out of increasingly automated and electric vehicles.

There was no significant reduction in the number of people killed in crashes on Britain’s roads each year from 2012 until coronavirus lockdowns led to a huge reduction in traffic in 2020.

Some 1,752 fatalities were recorded in 2019, followed by 1,460 last year.

Police investigations into road crashes are primarily focused on “identifying criminal culpability”, according to the consultation document.

It went on: “Currently, no stand-alone body exists to investigate road traffic collisions with the remit of learning and prevention.

“The aim of an RCIB would be to conduct thematic investigations, drawing on all available evidence, to make recommendations to the relevant organisations to mitigate or prevent such incidents in future.”

Roads minister Baroness Vere said: “The UK’s roads are among the safest in the world but we’re always looking at ways to make them even safer.

“A new investigation branch would play a huge role in this work by identifying the underlying causes of road traffic collisions so we can take action to prevent them from happening again.

“It would also provide us with vital insight as we continue to modernise our road network to ensure better, greener and safer journeys.”

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: “After excellent progress across many years, sustained road safety improvement has been hard to achieve over the past decade, both in the UK and further afield.

“We should be challenging ourselves on whether we are understanding all we can about the causes of road collisions and what could be done to prevent them.

“Our research to date suggests that more could be learnt, which is why today’s consultation is so important and so welcome.”

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