Improving how road accidents are recorded is a good thing

August 10, 2010 11:55 AM

The debate over speed cameras keeps rolling on. Yesterday Mick Giannasi, Gwent's Chief Constable, predicted that the number of fatal crashes will increase if cameras are turned off. Giannasi and other supporters of the speed cameras say they have contributed significantly to a substantial fall in the number of deaths and serious injuries – as recorded by the police who attended accidents.

But the way in which police record the accidents they attend has been called into question in a report by the DfT. The research showed there were “discrepancies” between the way injuries were classified by police and those with medical training, such as paramedics. The report also states “It should be recognised that not all injuries, even severe ones, come to the attention of the police… Some never do and some are reported subsequently, which means no police officer ever attended the scene.” 

This isn’t an accusation of “massaging” figures to support speed cameras. But it is safe to say that the figures don’t, as many would have you believe, unanimously support the claim that cameras are good for road safety because they reduce the number of accidents.

What can be agreed upon is that the system of recording accidents needs an overhaul so that their reliability is not called into question. A number of changes have been suggested, including issuing police officers with hand-held devices to record injuries at the site of the crash. It is also recommended that officers consult paramedics at the time to assess the severity of the injuries sustained.

Throughout the recent speed camera debate it has often been missed that scrapping speed cameras will foster other changes in road safety policy, and will not be an isolated change. Improving the way in which accidents are recorded so that an accurate picture of road casualties is known by policy makers is just one change that has been adopted. And this is certainly not a bad thing.The debate over speed cameras keeps rolling on. Yesterday Mick Giannasi, Gwent's Chief Constable, predicted that the number of fatal crashes will increase if cameras are turned off. Giannasi and other supporters of the speed cameras say they have contributed significantly to a substantial fall in the number of deaths and serious injuries – as recorded by the police who attended accidents.

But the way in which police record the accidents they attend has been called into question in a report by the DfT. The research showed there were “discrepancies” between the way injuries were classified by police and those with medical training, such as paramedics. The report also states “It should be recognised that not all injuries, even severe ones, come to the attention of the police… Some never do and some are reported subsequently, which means no police officer ever attended the scene.” 

This isn’t an accusation of “massaging” figures to support speed cameras. But it is safe to say that the figures don’t, as many would have you believe, unanimously support the claim that cameras are good for road safety because they reduce the number of accidents.

What can be agreed upon is that the system of recording accidents needs an overhaul so that their reliability is not called into question. A number of changes have been suggested, including issuing police officers with hand-held devices to record injuries at the site of the crash. It is also recommended that officers consult paramedics at the time to assess the severity of the injuries sustained.

Throughout the recent speed camera debate it has often been missed that scrapping speed cameras will foster other changes in road safety policy, and will not be an isolated change. Improving the way in which accidents are recorded so that an accurate picture of road casualties is known by policy makers is just one change that has been adopted. And this is certainly not a bad thing.

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