Government reveals plan for national road crash investigation unit

Independent Road Collision Investigation Branch would make country-wide safety recommendations based on specific incidents

A new national crash investigation body could be set up to investigate road collisions, including those involving “self-driving” cars, under government plans.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has begun a consultation into proposals to create a Road Collision Investigation Branch (RCIB) to examine “specific incidents of concern” and make safety recommendations.

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The body would operate in a similar way to independent bodies which already examine air, maritime and rail accidents.

It would  carry out what the DfT calls “thematic investigations” and examine specific incidents to determine their cause and make safety recommendations that can be applied across the country’s road network.

The proposal comes amid a long period of stagnation on reducing road deaths and as the Government explores the introduction of more advanced semi-autonomous vehicle systems on UK roads.

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.”

The consultation, which will run until 9 December was welcomed by road safety campaigners and experts.

Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns at the charity Brake, said: “Currently, information about the perceived cause of a road crash is recorded by police at the time of a collision, but only provides basic insights which simply are not adequate to properly investigate and determine the most effective countermeasures to tackle future road casualties.

“Brake has long advocated for an independent agency to provide the necessary evidence to learn from crashes and so we applaud the Department for Transport for launching today’s consultation.”

Matthew Avery, director of research at safety experts Thatcham Research, echoed this, saying: "Understanding what happened in a car crash is fundamental to prevent it from happening again."

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation welcomed the consultation saying more needed to be done to keep reducing casualties on the roads.

He 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.”