Road Safety Investigations Branch announced by Department for Transport

A new independent body modelled on the Air, Marine and Rail Investigation Branches aims to cut UK road casualties

A new independent Road Safety Investigations Branch has been announced by the Department for Transport, which will investigate incidents on the country’s roads, with a view to advising on ways to improve road safety and reduce casualties.

The RSIB will have a similar remit to the long-standing Air, Marine and Rail Accident Investigation Branches in terms of providing insights into best practise, but unlike those bodies it will not send investigators to crash scenes. On the ground investigations will remain within the remit of local police forces, but the RSIB will act on reports provided and will provide a national picture that’s currently missing.

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The RSIB has been set-up as a response to a Roads Policing Review which highlighted the lack of any national oversight of road safety. In contrast the Air Accident Investigations Branch has been operating for more than a century, while the Marine and Rail Investigation Branches were set up in 1989 and 2005, respectively. 

As fatal and serious road accidents are investigated by police forces, the RSIB will not have any input in apportioning blame or liability relating to individual road traffic accidents and collisions. Instead RSIB investigations will focus on factors beyond the police remit, to gain insights into the causes and contributory factors leading to incidents, with a focus on learning and prevention.

When consulting on the possible formation of the new investigatory body, the Department of Transport said: “The establishment of an RSIB will draw together the existing data landscape alongside information from insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers and medical organisations to enable a more concerted and holistic analysis of incidents and the suitability of various interventions. This should, in turn, help to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on the roads”.

New developments in the transport sector, including the roll-out of increasingly automated vehicles, made the case for the RSIB even more pressing, it said.

Transport secretary of state Grant Shapps said: “This independent, safety-focused Branch will learn the lessons from road collisions and other incidents including those involving self-driving vehicles by carrying out independent investigations and making recommendations to prevent future incidents, make our roads even safer and save lives across the country.

“The Branch will also provide vital insight into safety trends related to new and evolving technologies, which will help ensure road safety policy keeps pace with new developments.

“We expect to include measures to enable creation of the Branch in the forthcoming Transport Bill.”

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