National consistency is lacking. No national standards state what procedures are to be undertaken after a fatal collision.
Very few investigation procedures are required. Since 1996, all drivers in fatal crashes are to be breathalysed, except for where their injuries prevent it. But this has not been extended to include drug testing – not even of drivers involved in fatal night time collisions.
Guidance is advisory, not mandatory. This applies to the College of Policing's Investigating Road Death guidance, and its predecessor, ACPO's much longer Road Death Investigation Manual (RDIM).
The Joint Inspectorate Review of road death investigation and prosecution was unable to conduct a thorough inspection of collision investigation procedures. Why not? ÊBecause the majority of the casefiles they reviewed had key documents missing, including the policy and strategy logs.
The review recommended national training standards and an accreditation process for road death investigators. These were developed by the College of Policing.
It did not recommend what procedures were to be undertaken or how, eg. Mobile phone checks, speed calculations, drug testing, eyesight checks, CCTV checks. Nor when witness statements were to be taken.
The call for national standards is not new. ACPO introduced the Road Death Investigation Manual (RDIM) in 2001. Based on ACPO's Murder Manual, the RDIM was to promote consistency and good practice in investigating fatal crashes. Research conducted in the late 1990s showed a minority of police forces providing any kind of road death investigation training. Over half of officers responding to a questionnaire claimed they were not confident with dealing with a road death.
After being updated several times, the RDIM was replaced by the College of Policing guidance in October 2013.
National standards in collision investigation were one of RoadPeace's key calls in our Campaign for Justice for Road Traffic Victims, launched in 1998. This included:
- Scene of road death or serious injury to be treated as a homicide or crime scene,
- Drivers involved to be fully investigated to the same extent as the victims are currently investigated, i.e. mandatory alcohol and drug tests and full enquiries about their movements, tiredness, hours worked, etc, prior to the crash.
- Interviews should take place without delay at the police station, unless medically unfit.
And the 1994 report Support for Families of Road Death Victims recommended that:
"the police service formulates and adopts a standardised procedure for the investigation of every road death".
Good practice standards
National standards risk being minimum standards. Hence RoadPeace has called for best, or at least good, practice standards to be defined.
Good practice standards were a key call in our response to ACPO's 2012 RDIM consultation, submitted on behalf of British Cycling, CTC, LCC, Living Streets and 20s plenty for us. LCC and CTC also joined in the call for good practice standards in our response to TfL's report on cyclists killed and seriously injured and their experience of the criminal justice system.
Good practice standards should be agreed by NPCC, College of Policing and the professional association of collision investigators, the Institute of Traffic Accident Investigators (ITAI). ÊITAI proposed developing Best Practice standards in 2010.