Recap | RSGB at PACTS’ collision investigation conference

12.00 | 22 March 2017 |

Live updates and soundbites from PACTS’ 2017 conference, ‘Collision investigation: how can we learn more?’, brought to you by the Road Safety GB editorial team.


  • PACTS’ 2017 conference: ‘Collision investigation: how can we learn more?’
  • Took place on 22 March at the Church House, Westminster
  • For a more detailed summary, visit the PACTS website
  • Click here to find out more about the conference agenda and speakers

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15.30 – The final speaker of the day is Richard Cuerden, Chief Scientist, TRL

Richard Cuerden has worked in road safety and vehicle engineering research for more than 20 years and leads a diverse portfolio of research and consultancy projects. His work ranges from establishing European regulatory durability standards to ensure tailpipe emissions remain within the mandated pollutant limits for the life of the vehicle, to coordinating the collection and analysis of in-depth road collision data for the DfT. Richard has a strong track record of identifying safety design priorities based on real world evidence and a wealth of knowledge and expertise with respect to vehicle technologies and accident and injury prevention.    

Presentation: UK road collision investigation and the case for a Road Collision Investigation Branch

‘Our fragmented and silo based approach into collision investigation limits the potential to prevent collisions and injuries on our roads’

  • Casualty reduction has plateaued – we need an urgent change of pace
  • Efforts to analyse crashes by today’s experts are commendable, but are currently disparate, and subject to finite (fixed time periods) and variable funding
  • To be more effective road collision investigations need bringing under one coordinated framework with a focus on the application of safety learning = prevention
  • Expertise and experience exists in Britain today – giving us a springboard for the rapid creation of a Road Casualty Investigation Board (RCIB)
  • The investigative agencies for public transport provide useful templates to aid the formation of a RCIB
  • The cost of establishing a RCIB is small compared with the enormous cost, both financial and socially, of road casualties
  • The new RCIB must have a robust scientific and ‘safe systems’ approach and be focussed on what needs to be done to prevent future trauma on our roads
  • The RCIB would provide an international centre of excellence for the investigation of road collisions and the dissemination of safety learning to all stakeholders (DfT, Local Authorities, Police, OEMs, Public Health, Education etc)
  • The evolution of vehicle design and technologies is unprecedented and there is a need for a safety evaluation of new mobility solutions

‘In summary, the RCIB would generate a powerful dataset (intelligence) and form the empirical foundation for future road casualty reduction’

15.00 Jeremy Phillips, Road Casualty Reduction Team Manager, Devon County Council

Jeremy Phillips is Director of Research for Road Safety GB and Road Casualty Reduction Manager for Devon County Council. He also sits on the Board of the Devon & Cornwall Road Safety Partnership and is Chairman of the Road Safety GB south west regional group. He is responsible for a team of road safety officers, auditors, data analysts and collision investigators as well as the Devon Travel Academy (which provides commercial road safety training services). He is also responsible for providing data and intelligence to Devon and Cornwall Police to help officers achieve their goal of targeted and intelligence led policing.

Presentation: The local authority’s role in collision investigation

  • A run through collisions investigation at a local authority level
  • When a road is closed for a police investigation that’s our window for investigation.
  • 24/7 operation (call out facility) through contracted investigator
  • Our attendance is dependant on the nature of the collision, location of incident and experience
  • Collision site – police have primacy, but CC attendance governed by a MOU
  • Active site installation triggers a process of contextualising the incident by route type, the site and the section (of the road), general route demography, road user most directly involved (background and postcode), daytime conditions etc
  • Outcomes – a case review meeting, followed by practical outcomes (site specific interventions etc)
  • Weaknesses – dependant on road closure, contextualisation dependant on quality of Stats 19 data

14.15 – Afternoon panel discussion

The panel session includes:

  • Amy Aeron-Thomas, advocacy and justice manager, RoadPeace
  • Peter Sippitt MBE, chairman, Institute of Traffic Accident Investigations
  • Marcus Cook, senior inspector of air accidents (operations), Air Accidents Investigation Branch

Q: Should traffic officer investigations be published so people can draw conclusions?
Marcus Cook: all AAIB reports are in the public domain
Amy Aeron-Thomas: the vast majority of serious and slight injury casualties are not investigated. Resources are very limited.

Q: How does AAIB deal with conflicts of interest or pressure from DfT?
Marcus Cook: we protect our independence with our lives. We are not shy of making recommendations to anyone, including DfT.

Q: How do the panellists feel about technology becoming more and more a part of collision investigation?
Peter Sippitt MBE: vehicle manufacturers see data recorders as something that could ‘crucify’ their customers, and (for that reason) they won’t install them until they have to.

Q: Does RoadPeace want better information for learning or for justice?
Amy Aeron-Thomas: we want both, but this is not a conflict.
Peter Sippitt MBE: the people involved in operating aircraft and trains are responsible people. Some of the worst driving on the roads is by criminals. You must have a system where you can gather all the available information for the purposes of a Crown Court trial – so it’s important the police gather all evidence first.
Marcus Cook: our investigations are for safety – we want to speak to the witness first (before the police)

Q: Is there an argument for roads AAB to start with regulated drivers?
Amy Aeron-Thomas & Marcus Cook: both agree

Q: There are so many collisions on the roads that we are looking at a different model to air and rail. We haven’t got the resources.
Amy Aeron-Thomas: we see the Home Office downgrading road traffic collisions
Peter Sippitt MBE: someone is always breath tested after a collision, has their eyesight tested and has their phone taken away. In major cities ‘hit and run’ by criminals is the biggest issue and demands most police attention.

13.45 – Mr Kristopher Brunsden, senior claims data investigation analyst, Insure the Box

Kristopher Brunsden joined the claims team at Insure the Box in 2012 having worked within the motor insurance industry for seven years. He quickly demonstrated both a passion for and a proficiency in the assessment of telematics data, earning him a role as a Senior Claims Data Investigation Analyst.

Working within a specialist investigation team, Kristopher’s role sees him assisting in overseeing the implementation and utilisation of telematics driving data within Insure the Box’s claims function and the wider business.

Presentation: How the insurance industry can contribute to collision investigation   

 • We use telematics to monitor, speed, time of day, smooth driving, types of road and breaks on extended drives
• Two data streams – GPS vehicle tracking & accelerometers crash data
• In the event of a collision our data can verify the sequence of events
• We don’t capture data relating to near misses
• Our data has been used to defend our customer’s position or challenge a fraudster
• Accuracy can be interfered with by circumstances such as dense tree cover due to the limitations of GPS coverage
• At present the telematics box does not interface with the vehicle’s diagnostics, but there is potential for this going forward – but this is not a focus for Insure The Box
• The device is hard wired into the vehicle so we can be sure the vehicle we are tracking is the one we are covering, but it cannot determine who is driving

12.20 – Panel discussion

Independence of AIBs – at what point can lawyers start to get documents out of you through FOI requests etc?
Simon French – high success rate in terms of keeping certain types of information confidential. We will share technical evidence but police understand they need to carry out a parallel investigation.

AIB powers of entry etc
Simon French – the powers are there but we rarely have to use them. In most cases we are invited in and people want to talk to us (possibly because they know the powers are there).

Where is the demarcation between AIB and police investigations?
Simon French – ‘no blame’ and police investigations can happen in parallel, but it is for the police to decide what they do next. We will share technical info, but then their decision as to whether to prosecute. AIB has no opinion on that.

Do we have any knowledge about the number of incidents on the roads relating to suicide?
Peter Wells – 25% of truck incidents in Sweden relate to suicide in some form (unofficial figures)

Getting data from vehicles
Peter Wells – I think this should be regulated for.

AIB for road sector
Simon French – would have to rely on police for evidence and data – would have to work in partnership with police, network is too large.

Stephen Glaister – summary of morning
Why would a Government resist the idea of an AIB for roads?

Government represents society, but the Gov’t is complacent about the level of death and injury on the roads and (maybe) reluctant to create a body that might produce recommendations that would cost a lot of money to implement. 

11.20 – Simon French, chief inspector, Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB)

Simon French joined the RAIB in 2004 and was Deputy Chief Inspector from 2009 to 2015. As Chief Inspector he is responsible for the overall management of the RAIB and ensuring it fulfils its primary aim of improving safety on Britain’s railways.

Presentation: Lessons from 12 years of rail accident investigation

‘With all Accident Investigation Branch investigations, the purpose is limited to the improvement of safety – no blame is attributed, issues of liability are never considered’

UK Accident Investigation Branches
• Three AIBs in UK – air, rail and marine – all configured on a very similar modal
• Accident investigation requires teeth – it cannot be a voluntary process
• Independence is critical to the role of an AIB
• Limited to the improvement of safety – no blame is attributed
• Industry is obliged to notify accidents
• AIBs have the right to carry out interviews, and those interviewed must answer questions
• Witnesses are protected from ‘self-incrimination’
• AIBs play no part in prosecutions, but will share technical evidence
• All outcomes are published in a report
• Where appropriate AIBs will make recommendations

‘There must be more that can be done re: investigation into road collisions’

Accident investigation – insights
• The site phase is the tip of the iceberg – the issues that lie beneath take much more time
• You can learn as much from smaller incidents and near misses as a major one – but it’s harder to get people to take remedial action

Could AIB model work for highways?
• Top-level principles of independent, no-blame and specialist investigation are applicable to any mode.
• This approach can be applied to the analysis of individual accidents or larger data sets drawn from numerous investigations.

Challenges for highways
• Numerous different parties (eg private motorists, highways authorities, commercial organisations, infrastructure owners etc).
• Many rules that are not necessarily easy to change eg TSRGD, DMRB, Highway Code.
• The sheer number of road accidents = massive data sets.
• Diverse users – cyclists, pedestrians, amateur drivers etc
• Rapid changes in technology (vehicles)
• Culture: many road accident investigations (but not all) address questions of blame and liability.

‘To be of value, investigations must be independent, backed by suitable legal powers, conducted by specialists and a ‘no blame’ principle is fundamental’

10.40 – Panel discussion

Self reporting / no fault reporting
Steve Barry – police have statutory responsibilities, obliged to investigate, there is lots to resolve on the roads before we can move to no fault reporting. Have to resolve ‘justice’ issue first. Have to show more lives could be saved, as has been the case in air accident investigation – but not yet proven on the roads.

Dash board cams – can they help harness information?
Steve Barry – yes definitely but also created a problem in terms of volume. Police need to come up with a system to cope with volume. No solution available to buy off the shelf. Possibly use voluntary expertise to sift through footage, but need consistent solution across the country

Collision investigation – different modes of transport – do we ask people involved in collisions if they have experience of other modes of transport (cars, motorcycles, cycles etc)?
Ian Yarnold – yes

Summary at end of session by Professor Glaister
Question asked at outset of session – is there a case for an independent inspection body for roads? DfT says it provides this function; police say to an extent it’s us; and Highways England says on our patch it’s us. Is there duplication going on, and could the available money be better used if efforts were pooled?


10.20 – Katherine Wilson-Ellis, senior strategic programme manager – road safety, Highways England

Kathy Wilson-Ellis joined Highways England more than 10 years ago and currently leads on a number of projects including the recently launched Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework and the NPCC/HE Fatality Study.

Kathy also chairs the National Motorcycle and Towing Working Groups and will also lead a new three year programme to take forward the Fatality Study through the National Roads Policing Intelligence Forum.

Presentation: Highways England Fatality Study – identifying the root causes and countermeasures

‘We need to change people’s behaviours to reduce collisions’

• 224 people killed on Strategic Road Network (SRN) is 2015 (but SRN is only 4% of total road network)
• Highways England heavily reliant on Stats 19 – there are issues with the data but it’s the best we’ve got
• Stats 19 tells ‘how’ the collision occurred – but we want to know ‘why’ (approached NRPIF (National Roads Policing Intelligence Forum)
• Highways England Fatality Report – based on 192 fatal collisions in 2014 – key findings presented under safe systems pillars (roads, vehicles & people)


10.00 – Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for road death investigation

Steve Barry has been with Sussex Police since the start of his career in 1993. He has predominantly worked in uniform policing across all parts of Sussex and more recently has focused on specialist operational policing such as roads, firearms and public order.

Presentation: Police collision investigation procedures  

‘There is a recognition among police that we need a more consistent approach to collision investigation standards – less parochial, a national lead’

• National Forensic Collision Investigation Group – sets the standards for collision investigation across all police forces
•Information from near misses would inform as much as collisions (but is not available)
• Evidence gathering – local police unit will attend, but it is often over an hour before the forensic team arrives at the scene of a collision
• Reconstruction – a mechanical process
• Conclusions – expert evidence presented in written report
• Experienced roads policing officers will use their experience and expertise in coming to conclusions
• So many collisions come down to human error – ‘the nut behind the wheel’
• Causations and emerging factors – we need to get much smarter about emerging factors
• The future – collision investigation is an evolutionary process 

09.45 – Ian Yarnold, head of International Vehicle Standards Division, Department for Transport

Ian Yarnold is a mechanical engineer with over 30 years experience across a varied career encompassing heavy vehicle operation and maintenance, plus several years in the UK roadside enforcement agency, DVSA. During this time he has overseen the implementation of many safety systems for heavy and light vehicle applications.

He led the early UK activity on driverless cars, including the trials programme and publication of the review of regulations ‘The Pathway to Driverless Cars’.

Ian is also responsible for UK involvement in the EuroNCAP programme and the SHARP safety helmet programme for motorcyclists.

Presentation: In-depth collision investigation: RAIDS and the implications of autonomous vehicles

• The reduction in road fatalities since 1979 has fallen from 7 per day to 2 per day (on average)
• Road collision investigation is not new – dates back to the 1980s
• RAIDS pulls together data from the scene, police and ambulance services, hospitals and coroners
• RAIDS Phase 2 – 705 collision investigations since April 2016
• RAIDS Phase 2 – what’s new? Includes a focus on vulnerable road users, electronic vehicle data, advanced assistance
• RAIDS Phase 2 – what’s next? Incidents involving autonomous vehicles

09.30 – Professor Stephen Glaister (conference Chair), Chair, Office of Rail and Road

Professor Stephen Glaister CBE FICE FTRF FCGI is Chair of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the UK’s independent rail regulator and strategic roads monitor for England. Accountable to Parliament, ORR protects the people who work on, use, or interact with the railway and also advises the government in ensuring Highways England carries out its investment programme on England’s strategic road network effectively.

Stephen Glaister is also Emeritus Professor of Transport and Infrastructure at Imperial College, London.

Mr Glaister outlines the key themes for conference:

• There has been enormous success in air and rail investigation, but much less with roads
• There is a level of risk for road users that would not be tolerated in air or rail, or the work place
• The level of risk on roads is three times what is faced in other walks of life
• We don’t have an accident investigation board for roads – should we develop one?

08.30 – PACTS launches conference with call for new UK Road Collison Investigation Branch 

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) is calling on the Government to create a UK Road Collision Investigation Branch to boost efforts to reduce the number of road collisions and casualties.

In a press release issued today (22 March) to coincide with its latest conference, titled ‘Collision investigation: how can we learn more?’, PACTS is seeking an amendment to the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill to pave the way for the new body.

Click here to read more.

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