PACTS sets up Transport Safety Commission

12.00 | 15 March 2013 | | 22 comments

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) is to set up a Transport Safety Commission to inquire into road, rail and air safety.

The commission – which will consist of a ‘high level body’ with MPs, peers, and independent experts – will initially focus on road safety.

Announcing the decision, Barry Sheerman MP, chairman and founding member of PACTS, said: “I am delighted to announce that PACTS will be launching a Transport Safety Commission. The Commission model has worked very well in other areas of public policy and I am confident that it will be equally successful for transport safety.

“Establishing a Commission is a move that PACTS has been considering for some time and, under the new executive director, I believe that now is the time to take it forward.

“There are many aspects of transport safety that would benefit from public scrutiny, such as how to reduce crashes involving young drivers, what to do about level crossing safety, and the safety procedures for the new aircraft which carry the equivalent of a school.”

David Davies, executive director of PACTS, said: “The Commission will be independent and cross-party, representing a broad spectrum of interests and expertise. It will decide what to investigate and how best to go about it. We will be holding a navigational meeting to determine the membership of the Commission and its terms of reference. PACTS will provide the support and secretariat.

“In October 2008, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee called for the establishment of ‘an authoritative and independent road safety commission’. The Government did not take up the recommendation. I am pleased that PACTS is now able to do so.”

For more information contact David Davies on 020 7222 7732.

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    TRL and the Vehicle Safety Research Centre at Loughborough University conducted an in-depth study of accidents of all severities on behalf of the DfT over around 10 years and have published a number of papers off the back of it. Some can be found at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/lds/research/groups/tsrc/publications/ and if you search “on the spot” on TRL’s website you will find more. A similar project is now getting up and running again with the same partners.


    Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire
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    Event data recording from electronic control units was presented at Road Safety Scotland’s Annual Seminar – see http://www.road-safety.org.uk/about-us/annual-seminars/ Alastair Bain – the future of speed-determination.


    D Sharp, Midlothian
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    To make contributors aware of future developments, Kawasaki currently fit an “Event Data Recorder” (EDR) to their Versys 1000 model. My understanding is that this is designed to record vehicle speed, engine crankshaft rotational speed and throttle opening, not sure what else. The data may be used in specific situations for analysis of an accident related circumstance, they say. It would appear to be on some form of a short term loop rather than a complete history of the bike use. They also say Event Data Recorder technology is already widely used in the automotive industry and Kawasaki have decided to adopt it to give a clear, unbiased view of a machine’s status immediately prior to an accident. The unit apparently has to be returned to Kawasaki to access the data. I’m not sure how widespread this is but I do know it’s not popular with some bikers.


    Mike RSO Leicestershire
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    Elaine: Yes the method you stated to estimate the speed and braking seems to be similar to what, as far as I am aware, all Police forces use at present (if they can), which is examination of any skid marks. However this is only possible where: the wheels on the vehicle(s) actually locked-up: the road wasn’t wet or otherwise slippy and there was a measurable length of tyre/skid marks present – the sooner we have black boxes in road vehicles the better!


    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Honor, I did presume that there is a similar set up as in NI. You mention the Highways Agency, or regional/local road authorities, that seems logical as are the statute requirements to investigate.

    Hugh, with regards to speed and braking, I would agree that it would not be as precise as air collision investigation – for the obvious reasons – planes have black boxes, computers etc.

    However I do know that the road collision investigators can and do calculate braking and speed or rather the deceleration rate of the vehicle (in my case the motorcycle), which is dependent on a number of factors, one of which is the braking technique employed by the motorcyclist i.e. the severity of braking applied and the ratio of front/rear brake distribution. Following examination of the motorcycle, considering the nature of the tyre mark and the friction surface dressing on the road surface, the investigators are thus able to determine a range of possible deceleration rates.


    Elaine
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    Elaine: Many thanks for the detailed response. I wonder if anyone has compared the efficacy of the NI crash investigation system with that used by the Police in England and Wales i.e whether one system is better than the other in producing definitive conclusions? The breakdown of categories you listed is similar to our Stats 19 in some respects, but may well be more detailed in some areas. At the end of the day though, and alluding back to the comparison with the aviation industry, at present most road vehicles are not equipped with devices that can record everything that happened immediately prior to a collision, unlike aircraft and so things like, for example, speed and braking action, remain the big unknowns.


    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    With regard to fatal collisions it is not just the police who investigate, the highway authority for that road also undertakes an investigation from an engineering perspective and may also include human factors. Additionally, every Local Highways Authority is required by statute to undertake collision data analysis and to undertake remedial measures where appropriate. They are also required by statute to provide a road safety education, training and publicity service.


    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
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    I recognise that the post below from Elaine considerably exceeds our permitted word count (150 words) but have published it because I believe it is a valuable contribution to this discussion thread.


    Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed
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    Hugh, (sorry for the lengthy response)
    Yes, only fatalities but that’s all they do (or rather did – because fatalities are becoming less and less – they are starting to do serious injuries as well now).

    My response to Duncan’s email to me below:

    Forensic Science Northern Ireland comes under the auspices of the Department for Justice and is not connected to the police – or rather they are a separate entity answerable to the Minister of Justice. They all have qualifications in Mechanical Engineering – etc – it’s all in my report on page one.

    Also on page one – I detail the data collected On-Scene:

    Vehicle data
    – Vehicle registration number, manufacturer, model
    – Mechanical factors data, motorcycle and other vehicles
    – Contribution of design or maintenance defects to collision or injury causation
    – Collision or injury related cause factors
    – Motorcycle pre-crash motions
    – Other vehicle pre-crash motions
    – Motorcycle collision motions
    – Other vehicle collision motions
    – Motorcycle post-collision motions
    – Associate vehicle injury sources
    – Vehicle speed for motorcycle and other vehicle
    – Motorcycle lighting: headlamps, brake lights, etc.

    Collision scene, environment
    – Collision scene data
    – Road motorcycle was travelling
    – Road other vehicle was travelling
    – Traffic and controls
    – Verify collision configuration
    – Preview collision cause factors
    – Collision contribution of weather, view obstructions
    – Collision contribution of road conditions and defects

    Human factors
    – Collision avoidance performance
    – Helmet analysis
    If you are interested, the study is on our website (www.righttoride.co.uk)

    How did I get hold of the collision scene reports? Easy! I rang up one of the chaps from FSNI and (as previously mentioned) he said that it was the first time in 27 years that anybody had asked to do a study. I got his details from somebody I know in the police here who is involved in Bikesafe.

    I had to sign a confidentiality document for data protection. In fact, in all the cases – which were 39 in total (41 deaths), I have removed names, makes of bikes/cars, locations etc. Everything I wrote had to be cleared by FSNI prior to publishing. However that said, a lot of the information can be found in Coroner’s reports detailing names etc (I also had access to these reports as well) but not all fatalities have coroners’ inquests – due to various reasons, the family doesn’t want it etc.

    The job of a road traffic collision scene investigator is not the same as what the police do. In fact the agreement here between the police (PSNI) and FSNI is that the investigators have to arrive at a scene up to an hour and a half after the call is made to them. All the police do is to close off the roads around the collision scene.

    The report I published is part one. There is a part two which is about 200 pages long and gives far more detail of each case, but it’s only available for people who are expert research analysts in this field.

    Hope that helps.


    Elaine
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    Elaine: Is Collision Investigation/Forensic Science NI part of the Police or a separate Government body? In England and Wales it is the Police who do all the necessary crash investigations and apart from the data of a general nature which eventually forms part of the collision recording database, I would be astounded if any England or Wales Police’s crash investiagation files were made available. I presume the investigations you’ve referred to are only for fatals rather than every recorded collsion?


    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Duncan – I don’t know why – I asked and I was allowed to have access.

    Maybe because I have PhD in Social Research and have spent many years researching motorcycles, and perhaps I was given access for that reason i.e. they thought I knew what I was doing. I spent a year trawling through the reports, because I am thorough and there was a lot of information to read and I took my time – I wasn’t in a hurry.

    As the head of the Collision Investigation team said – when I asked to look at their cases – “This is the first time in 27 years that anybody has asked to look at the files”. Perhaps the information is not available on line – because there is not the time or money to be able to breakdown all the information for publication. They work out of a portacabin – that just might be a clue….

    There’s no conspiracy – or at least there isn’t here – don’t know what happens on the other side of the Irish Sea. But I thought I explained all this to you in response to your email.


    Elaine
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    Elaine: you have hit the nail on the head. Why I wonder did you have to spend a year trawling through the files and records of the Forensic Science NI? Why is this information not in the public domain and published so that we all can learn from it? I don’t doubt the skill of the accident investigation teams, but why are the results of their labours hidden from view?

    As I sit here, there is on my desk a freely distributed publication from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch that contains essential information that everybody in the air transport industry csn and do learn from. A good example can be found at: http://www.aaib.gov.uk/publications/bulletins/february_2013/robinson_r22_beta__g_chzn.cfm


    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    Re Duncan’s comment – “If I crash my helicopter the investigation into the event is only concerned with what happened and how. If I crash my bike the investigation into the event is only concerned with who’s to blame.”.

    Sorry Duncan, I disagree. I spent a year trawling through the files and records of the Forensic Science NI – a team which is made up of Mechanical Engineers who are trained Road Traffic Collision experts. I couldn’t find any indication – at all – that they were looking for somebody to blame. The analysis of the collision scenes were well documented and detailed with photos, maps, diagrams – 3D imagery where relevant etc – to find out what happened and why.

    Ultimately the Coroner may choose to find blame in the rider or driver’s behaviour, but that’s not what Road Traffic Collision Investigators do – that’s not their job. Each investigation (in Northern Ireland anyway) takes around 6 months to complete. Each case is scrutinised in finite detail. So once again – different situations.

    Of course the methodologies in air collisions are incredibly detailed and I would assume very expensive to conduct – but then more lives are lost in one plane crash. However that does not diminish the quality of the Road Traffic Collision Investigation teams. I can only speak for Northern Ireland, but I’d challenge anybody to suggest that they were less efficient than air collision investigators.


    Elaine
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    The aviation industry also investigates near misses and pilots have to undergo extensive training in various conditions before they get a licence and fly a minimum number of hours in order to keep a licence. Most drivers in the event of a near miss immediately blame someone or something else and carry on in the same way as before. Black box technology uses telematics to monitor in car behaviour and requires explanation of erratic manouevres perhaps putting this in all vehicles would help to ensure road safety takes a step closer to aviation or rail industry standards? It could even be used to ensure drivers log a minimum number of hours and drive in varying conditions to ensure higher levels of experience before and after licence acquisition.


    Dave, Leeds
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    I think that the point I was trying to make about the differences between air and road transport is what happens if I crash my helicopter in comparison with what happens if I crash my bike. If I crash my helicopter the investigation into the event is only concerned with what happened and how. If I crash my bike the investigation into the event is only concerned with who’s to blame. It’s still me that’s crashed, so why the difference in investigation objectives?

    Any lessons learned after any aviation incident are immediately fed back into the engineering and training systems, but similar lessons from bike accidents just seem to evaporate into the ether. Aviation is safe because we are forced to learn from our mistakes, road transport is dangerous because we don’t learn from them. I know which system I am happier to operate in.


    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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    Note that no-one in the air safety world suggests flying more slowly increases safety, while many in the road safety world wrongly believe that slowing down is automatically safer. There are benefits in understanding the motivations and effects that create these differing points of view.


    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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    I’m afraid comparing air and road is like comparing apples with oranges. Two different worlds I’m afraid. I’d say rail comes in between. The only thing they have in common is that you can’t get 100% safety in either one.


    Carlos
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    The success of this commission will depend on the expertise and the independence of the experts. How are they being chosen and when?


    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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    In general Elaine is right, no comparison between air and road. But the fact remains that human beings are involved in both which means that some similarities remain. Like the recently leaked report that the Air France pilot in charge of the aircraft that stalled into the Atlantic from 30,000 ft, with all 3 pilots unable to work out how to stop it, had been recorded saying he had only 1 hour sleep before boarding. And in other respects like looking properly, staying alert, rapid responses.


    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    The air industry is not the same in any shape or form as road transport. Collision course technology in air transport is a completely different kettle of fish. There are no dogs running across the road, there are no junctions, there are no drunken drivers or people using mobile phones or speeding motorcyclists. You cannot compare – ever. As an example, I listened some years ago to the Chairman of British Airways who explained the computerised collision course technology used in the Boeing 747s. The purpose is to ensure that when there is a risk of collision, the computers takeover and veer the aircraft away from a potential collision. There was a glich in the 747A system. This manifested itself over China a few years ago between a Cathay Pacific aircraft (747A) and a British Airways plane (747B), instead of veering away from the 747B, the 747A did the opposite. Compare that to road accidents? I don’t think so, it’s another world. Can we learn from aviation? Well if we trained everybody to be pilots – possibly.


    Elaine
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    Might the more thorough investigation of air crashes just have something to do with there being only a handful each year compared to something like 30,000 KSI road accidents?

    Will the “independent experts” include critics as well as supporters of policies, reporting standards, analysis and general competence? As with any debate, robust exchange of a wide range of views from all sides is essential to real progress.


    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    It’s great that this new commission will be evaluating air safety alongside road safety. They might then get a bit of an idea as to how much better the air safety industry is than the road safety industry at finding the root causes of accidents and preventing future occurrences.

    You only have to watch “Air Crash Investigation” on the Discovery channel to get a clue as to the superior accident investigation methodology that is used in that industry in comparison with the methods used in ours.


    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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