Key considerations when responding to the Consultation on establishing a Road Collision Investigation Branch

Following the encouraging results from research by the RAC Foundation, the Government is seeking views about whether to establish a Road Collision Investigation Branch and what are the best ways to set it up.

We have written before how the present system is broken and we welcome the intention to set up an independent investigative body with adequate powers.

We therefore urge everyone to respond to the Consultation; deadline is Thursday 9th December.

These are some of the issues to keep in mind when responding:

  1. Given the special nature of the Roads environment, compared to other Transport sectors (large number of types of vehicles, majority of drivers are not professional, large number of serious collisions, sadly), the Government is suggesting the RCIB would conduct thematic investigations.
    • This raises two related issues
      1. How are the themes selected: top down (selection of themes according to some criteria – see point 2) or bottom up (i.e. starting from particular incidents). We suggest that both approaches are valuable and should be adopted
      2. What criteria should the RAIB use to select themes: The Government has suggested the following
        1. Scale – factors impacting a large number of fatal or serious collisions (as opposed to more minor collisions/near misses)
        2. Risk of harm – collisions impacting those who might sustain the greatest risk of harm including children, the elderly, pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians
        3. Emerging risks – new technology or behaviour without an established evidence base
          • We strongly suggest that Risk of harm should be the most important criteria
  2. Near Misses. The Rail Investigator has publicly emphasised how near misses are very important data points in developing recommendations. Rail Operators have a duty to report Near Misses. How are Near Misses on Roads going to be recorded. Presently there is no system set up to do that and the only mention in the consultation document is not encouraging. We therefore recommend you mention this in your response
  3. Vision Zero is not mentioned. We believe that it is a mistake because the Vision Zero core principles (design urban environments that take into consideration the fallibility and fragility of humans; learning from failures, etc.) are important guiding principles for anyone whose remit is to reduce the number of preventable deaths.
  4. Robot Cars We need to be alert to the possibility that the car manufacturers lobby may try to influence legislation to make the introduction of robot cars easier. Their nightmare scenario is cities where robot cars come to a standstill because pedestrians will just step in front of them.
    • Please mention that the freedom of Active Travel should not be curtailed to enable the speedy introduction of Robot Cars
  5. Whistleblowers and Alerts by the Public. Again, the Rail Investigator has set up a robust system that allows whistleblowers in the industry to report unsafe practices. This is an important feature that is not mentioned in the consultation document. Please mention it

To summarise, the establishment of a RCIB is a needed step towards reducing road deaths. It is critcal however that it is set up with the correct overriding criteria: Active travel is at the top of the citizens needs pyramid and road danger reduction needs to be targeted towards interventions that enable Active Travel to flourish

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