Government launches consultation on Road Collision Investigation Branch

13.54 | 28 October 2021 | | 5 comments

The DfT has launched a consultation on proposals to set up a Road Collision Investigation Branch (RCIB), which would operate much like similar independent bodies that already exist for air, maritime and rail accidents.

Independent bodies are a long standing feature of accident investigation practice in the UK. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has been operating since 1915, while the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) and Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) have operated since 1989 and 2005 respectively.

A RCIB would carry out thematic investigations and probe specific incidents of concern to establish the causes of collisions and make independent safety recommendations to further improve road safety across the country.

The DfT says the consultation is being launched now due to the ‘huge developments which are taking place across the transport sector’, such as the rollout of increasingly automated and electric vehicles.

Baroness Vere, roads minister 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.”

The potential establishment of a RCIB has been warmly welcomed by the RAC Foundation.

Steve Gooding, director of 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.”

The consultation, which has been published on GOV.UK, will run until 9 December 2021.



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    The proposal emphasises that the new body will be independent and so arms length from government. This will enable the new body to fearlessly make recommendations to government who will be then more accountable for their decisions. Too much of the current governance is either localised or if centralised, too close to government.

    Whilst not a silver bullet, I would expect the new body to be a reasonable step to shining a light on the Executive and it’s policies.

    Peter Whitfield, Liverpool
    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    Interesting, but not sure why it is needed, what information is not being collected as part of the Police Fatal collision investigation and the subsequent HM Coroners inquest and/or criminal proceddings, all of which is then shared with DFT Stats 19 and TRL who get the fatal collision files from police forces (free of charge)? Where will the primacy for the investigation lie,Police, HM Coroner or RCIB? Will the expectation be that fatal crash sites will remain closed until the RCIB attend, that will be problematic on the SRN and other key ‘A’ roads. Air and rail crashes are less frequent events than fatal road collisions (by a huge amount) so how big will the RCIB need to be to cover 24/7, 365 days if their intention is to attend just fatal collisions? Finally, is this going to be another burden on already stretched police forces carrying out fatal investigations on behalf of HM Coroner and finding answers & seeking justice for the family of loved ones killed in road traffic collisions?

    Heidi Duffy MBE, Nottinghamshire
    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    Everybody’s an expert, except in the case of GB, there are no experts in this field of crash investigation. It’s all piecemeal and guess work. The best example of a good Road Traffic Crash Investigation Team is the Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI)Road Traffic Crash Investigation Unit. They operate within the Department for Justice and a independent from the Police – although are reliant on the police (PSNI) for support. The work that they have carried out over >30 years highlights how important their investigations are to provide detailed independent information about road traffic collisions and their outcomes in terms of fatalities and injuries. The road traffic investigation unit needs to be able to provide sound evidence of facts in relation to whatever crash investigation scene it may attend. FSNI provides the information and evidence to the Coroners’ Office and in the courts if as required. It is only through thorough investigation that facts are found and knowledge improved.

    Elaine Hardy, Belfast
    Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

    “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.” In other words, exactly what the Police, Local Authority Traffic and Road Safety Departments, the Dft themselves and numerous other authorities and charities are already doing and have been doing for years. Why not ask them? As Mr Graham says, it won’t tell us anything we don’t already know….it’s not a mystery.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

    Great concept, but I just wonder if it will tell us anything we don’t know, and lead to addressing causation.

    We already know that human error is a major factor in 95% of collisions, yet we don’t insist on an eye check as part of the licence application, older drivers self declare health, and driving standards are never legally reviewed following test pass even though we know driving standards drop.

    Parliament looks likely to follow the proposals: drop the car and trailer test, and no longer test lorry manoeuvring even though the Health and Safety Executive state nearly a quarter of lorry fatalities involve a lorry manoeuvring. We have already seen a drop in new car drivers manoeuvring capability by leaving the harder manoeuvres to trainers.

    I suspect the off-road part of the motorcycle test will be handed back to instructors soon so as to enable test space to be sold.

    My hope is that if this body makes recommendations there will be traction on actioning them.

    Ben Graham – Fleet Driver Trainer and Transport Manager

    Ben Graham, Reading
    Agree (9) | Disagree (2)

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