Sharing collision data and medical information could help us better understand of the causes and costs of road traffic collisions

Both human and financial considerations will be better realised while also leading to improved road safety.

Fragmented picture

At present, crash and casualty data is routinely collected by the police attending incidents . This is then published by the Department for Transport through a system called STATS19.

However, getting a more rounded picture of collisions and harm on the road network is difficult.  STATS19 stats should be better linked to other sources of data. In particular, injury data collected in the national medical dataset, Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), and the ambulance service. There are other parties involved in the aftermath of road crashes that can also input potentially helpful data.

Road safety, health provision, law enforcement, transport policy and vehicle design would all benefit from greater data co-ordination and cross-referencing.

Better together

This is one conclusion of a report – Data Linkage in Road Safety – authored by Seema Yalamanchili. He is a general surgeon and a clinical research fellow at the Imperial College London Institute of Global Health Innovation. The research comes as part of the RTI-AID project.

Funding came from the RAC Foundation and the FIA Road Safety Grant Programme, supported by the FIA Foundation.

A more co-ordinated approach would help answer some of the questions that are key to reducing road casualties and improving health outcomes, such as:

  • Are the right road casualties being triaged to the right centres?
  • Why do some demographic groups fare worse than others following similar collision circumstances?
  • What medical interventions can be introduced to improve clinical outcomes for particular injury types?

Cutting the costs

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.2 million people are killed annually on roads around the globe.

Europe has been relatively successful in cutting death and injury on the roads over the last few decades. This has slowed over recent years, especially in the UK since it abandoned targets and resources were cut, including dedicated traffic police officers.

These successes have been in large part down to the ‘safe system’ approach.

It is built on five pillars: safe vehicles, safe road use, safe roads, safe speeds, and post-crash response.

By 2020, the safest roads in Europe were in Norway (17 deaths per million), Sweden (20 deaths per million) and the UK (23 deaths per million).

However, 1,695 people still died on Britain’s roads in 2022. Over the past decade or so the annual number of fatalities has plateaued rather than continue to decline.

Most attention is given to the number of people killed. However, for each fatality there is estimated to be at least five more who receive life-changing injuries.

This puts huge pressure not just on victims and their families, bus also health care systems and the public finances.

A new approach could be a significant benefit to understanding the facts, factors and the way road safety can move forward.

Read the report here.