Know it & Solve it

Campaigning for improved road collision investigation

car crash investigationThis campaign calls for government to establish an independent Road Collision Investigation Branch and set demanding casualty reduction targets. To get to zero deaths and serious injuries, we need to know it, and solve it. 

We know that when drivers don't follow the Brake Pledge deaths and injuries can happen: most casualties involve driver mistakes or intentional law-breaking. However, understanding in depth, and collating, the details of individual tragedies and the circumstances that led to them, is vital work. It would enable identification of the most effective and urgent solutions to prevent future deaths and injuries, for example through improved 'safe systems' including design of roads and vehicles that prevent and mitigate collisions. 

Yet while there are agencies that do this kind of investigation following rail, maritime and aviation disasters, there is no independent agency in the UK equipped or tasked with investigating road deaths and injuries, despite the much higher numbers of casualties on roads. 

What are we calling for?

Through Know it & Solve it, Brake is calling for:

  • the establishment of an independent agency (a Road Collision Investigation Branch) to provide the evidence today to stop tomorrow's road casualties.
  • the setting of challenging road safety targets at a national level to drive government action.

Why now?

Here are six major reasons for establishing a Road Collision Investigation Branch right now. 

1 Britain has committed itself to addressing the causes of deaths and injuries in its Road Safety Statement

The Government's British Road Safety Statement, commits to a "safe systems" approach to reducing road deaths and injuries. This means making improvements to our road infrastructure, our vehicles, and vehicle speeds to mitigate the chance of death and injury. But without detailed investigation of collisions, it is impossible to know which, out of many possible, countermeasures are likely to save most lives, nor monitor the effectiveness of implemented countermeasures. 

2 Britain has set itself "vision zero" targets for its strategic road network

Highways England has committed to eradicate deaths and serious injuries from its strategic road network (our network of trunk roads and motorways) by 2040. This "vision zero" approach is increasingly popular worldwide, as governments and road and city authorities recognise that no death or serious injury on roads is acceptable. We need to know what to do, and do it now. If road deaths don't begin to decline, by 2040 more than 41,000 more people will have died on Britain's roads, with many more injured. 

3 Britain's decline in deaths and serious injuries has stalled: we need to maintain our position as a world leader in road safety

Britain has a global reputation for reducing road casualties, but since 2010 the number of people killed and seriously injured has not continued to decline. We need to understand why, and address those causes. This strategic approach is the intelligent approach for a country trying to lead the way in tackling a global epidemic. 

4 Britain has the expertise to lead the way in road collision investigation 

Highly detailed collision investigations have been undertaken intermittently in recent years by British academics as part of commendable research programmes, resulting in detailed and insightful data sets. At present, this includes the Road Accident In-depth Study (RAIDS) being undertaken by the UK's transport research agency TRL on behalf of the Department for Transport. However, such studies are often limited in scope (don't study all deaths and injuries) and limited in duration (funding for such research comes and goes). We need to harness expertise and knowledge within a permanent agency; it's a case of "use it or lose it". 

5 We are moving towards an automated and connected world of road transport

As vehicles and roads become increasingly automated and connected, it's more important than ever to investigate crashes and their changing causation. 

6 We do it for rail, aviation, and sea disasters: why not road?

Road crashes cause vastly more deaths in the UK than other transport disasters. For the past nine years, for example, there have been no passenger deaths on our railways. Yet other modes of transport have independent agencies to investigate deaths and injuries and make recommendations to government regarding actions that should be taken to prevent future deaths and injuries. This includes the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch.  

The RAIB and MAIB are statutory branches, established within acts of parliament within the past 25 years (Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, Merchant Shipping Act 1995). The AAIB has been operating for more than 100 years having been established in 1912. 


Such an agency would be cost effective; anticipated savings in reduced deaths and serious injuries would outweigh the relatively nominal costs of running such an agency. Such an agency could: 

  1. identify detailed causation of deaths and injuries on Britain’s road network
  2. identify and make recommendations regarding effective and cost effective countermeasures to stop deaths and injuries
  3. support Britain’s police in pursuance of excellence in their forensic investigation of crashes
  4. develop standards and expertise in collision investigation, data recording and analysis that can assist and unify investigations in the UK and, for comparison purposes, abroad

How are road crashes investigated at the moment?

Information about the perceived causes of road crashes is recorded by police at the time of collisions, for criminal prosecution purposes and to inform statistics collated and published by the Department for Transport. This information mainly provides basic data including, for example, modal choice of victims, age of victims, time of day, etc. There is additional data available from hospitals relating to presentation of injuries. Collectively, however, this information is not adequate to investigate and determine the most effective countermeasures to tackle road casualties. 

Take action

Campaign news 

'So their deaths aren't in vain' - a blog post by Mary Williams, 28/08/17


End notes

[1] Department for Transport, Working together to build a safer road system, British Road Safety Statement, December 2015

[2] Department for Transport, Working together to build a safer road system, British Road Safety Statement, December 2015


[4] ORR, Rail Safety Statistics, Annual statistical release 2015-16

[5] Rail Accident Investigation Branch  

[6] Air Accidents Investigation Branch

[7] Maritime Accident Investigation Branch

Driving for Zero: facts and campaign updates

Key facts

Vision and ill health – I don’t really have a specific ‘ill-health fact’ bar one for sleep apnoea:

  • Road crashes involving a driver with poor vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties and cost £33 million in the UK per year [1].
  • Eyesight can decline gradually and unnoticed, with people losing up to 40% of their visual acuity without being aware of deterioration [2].


  • Drivers at 6am are 20 times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel than at 10am [3].
  • About 40% of fatigue-related crashes involve commercial vehicle drivers, often in the largest vehicles on our roads that can cause the most harm in a crash [4].  


  • In 2014, 240 people in Great Britain were killed in crashes where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, largely unchanged since 2011 [5].
  • Impairment by illegal or medical drugs was officially recorded as a contributory factor in 62 fatal road crashes and 259 crashes resulting in serious injuries in 2015 in Britain [6].

Driver distraction:

  • Drivers who use phones, either hands-free and hand-held, have been found by researchers to be four times more likely to be in a crash resulting in injuries than drivers not distracted [7].
  • A recent survey by Brake and Direct Line revealed a third of drivers admit to eating at the wheel and one in 10 suffered a near-miss because they were distracted by food while driving [8].

Campaign Updates

Charity welcomes tougher penalties for mobile phone use behind the wheel, 1/3/2017


Return to our driving for zero campaign page or visit our Driving for Zero campaign pages on these themes and more

Alcohol & Drugs 

Phones and devices


Vision and ill health    

End Notes.

[1] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, overview available on the Road Safety Observatory, 2012

[2] Assessment of fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals, DVLA, 2016

[3] PACTS, Staying awake, staying alive: the problem of fatigue in the transport sector, 2014

[4] Flatley, D. & Rayner, L. et al, Sleep-Related Crashes on Sections of Different Road Types in the UK (1995–2001), 2004

[5] DfT,Reported road casualties in Great Britain: Estimates for accidents involving illegal alcohol levels: 2014 (final) and 2015 (provisional),  2016

[6] Department for Transport, 2016, Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2015, table RAS50001

[7] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005

[8] Eating at the Wheel, Brake and Direct Line Survey, 2016

Modern Vehicles: Updates

Browse Brake's 'fact checks' on vehicle technology and scroll down for news. 


March 2019: Final EU deal on Commission proposal to mandate lifesaving vehicle technologies agreed. Brake press release here.

February 2019: European Parliament gives backing to Commission proposal to mandate lifesaving vehicle technologies. Brake press release here.

November 2018: European Council backs Commission proposal to mandate lifesaving vehicle technologies. Brake press release here.

May 2018: European Commission proposed to mandate lifesaving vehicle technologies. Brake press release here and here.

October 2017: Brake welcomes MEPs' calls for improved car safety standards
The European Parliament’s Transport Committee has demanded that new cars be fitted with a range of life-saving technologies as standard

August 2017: Industry and NGOs call for urgent UK action on vehicle safety standards
A coalition of industry groups and NGOs have called on the UK Government to pledge its support for European Commission plans to improve new vehicle safety standards.

December 2016: EU regulation of minimum safety standards imminent
EU announces it is considering 19 vehicle safety features to include in its revision of its safety regulations for new vehicles. 

June 2016: 1% ULEV market breakthrough
ULEVs now make up more than 1% of the newly-registered vehicles in Britain, up from 0.2% two years' previously, with the increase attributed to plug-in car and van grants, and an acceleration in electric charge points. 

April 2016: Trucks platoon across Europe
Six manufacturers of trucks take part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge showcasing platooning of large trucks on public roads heading for the Netherlands.

April 2016: V2I technology on our Strategic Road Network (motorways and A roads)
Highways England announces, in its Innovation, Technology and Research strategy, that its £150m 'innovation fund' will include trials of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies and development of infrastructure standards on the strategic road network (motorways and A roads) to “futureproof” the network for these technologies 

March 2016: Trials of automated vehicles on British roads announced
In the government’s budget, it is announced that automated vehicles will be trialled on British motorways by the end of 2017 . This is  to include trials of trucks travelling in platoons (connected to the lead truck using wireless technology).

March 2016: London buses to be fitted with ISA
Transport for London announced the completion of successful trials of mandatory Intelligent Speed Assistance on its buses, controlling them to within all speed limits, and says all new buses will be fitted with ISA by 2017.

February 2016: Eight research projects into automated driving announced
The first funds out of the government’s dedicated £100m ‘intelligent mobility research’ fund are assigned to eight projects across the UK , including a project equipping a small length of Britain’s roads to be ready to test automated vehicles and a project aiming to accelerate the ‘development, market readiness and deployment’ of automated driving systems.

January 2016: C-ITS report published 
The European Union’s Platform for the Deployment of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems publishes its final report, saying “a coordinated action for the deployment of C-ITS in the EU is paramount: a unique legal and technical framework is essential and coordinated efforts to ensure quick uptake of C-ITS are requested.”

November 2015: New trucks mandated to have AEBS, and LDWS  
EU General Safety Regulation 661/2009 introduces the mandatory fitment of Advanced Emergency Braking Systems (AEBS) and Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS) to medium and heavy commercial vehicles.

July 2015: Department for Transport sets up C-CAV and launches its code of practice
The Department for Transport launches its “code of practice” for automated vehicle technology testing. The government also set up the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (C-CAV).

February 2015: Britain’s Department for Transport launches its Action Plan for creating a ‘pathway’ for driverless vehicles.
The action plan commits to “amending national and international legislation to facilitate production and marketing of highly and fully automated vehicles. It is envisaged that national legislation can be amended by 2017 and there should be an aim to finalise amendments to international regulations by the end of 2018.” 

February 2015: The start of ‘Driverless Vehicle Trials’ in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry
Trials involve teams of engineers testing electric, fully-automated pods potentially for use in cities. 

November 2014: New cars mandated to have ESC  
EU General Safety Regulation 661/2009 introduces the mandatory fitment of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to all new cars.

September 2013: Britain's ULEV strategy announced
The government's strategy, Driving the future Today, is launched, with a vision of every new car being a "ULEV from 2040 and an effectively decarbonised fleet by 2050 to meet our Carbon Plan targets."

February 2013: Britain provides grants for electric vehicle charge points
The first in a round of grants are provided by the British government for the establishment of electric charge points. 

Modern vehicles

Campaigning to place people and the planet at the heart of vehicle modernisation

The Modern Vehicles campaign embraces unstoppable developments in vehicle technology, that can save both lives and the planet, and calls on developments to be implemented in line with Brake's vision of safe, sustainable, healthy and fair transport.

What are we calling for?

  1. A raising of the bar of safety regulation on new vehicles, to prevent crashes and mitigate their outcomes.  
  2. Increased efforts by government and infrastructure providers to enable purchase and convenient refuelling of ultra-low emission vehicles. 
  3. Support and incentives for increased safe and green vehicle purchasing by the public.
  4. Increased safe and green vehicle purchasing choices by companies and organisations operating fleets. 
  5. Ensuring that the implementation of automated, connected vehicles within the UK are safe, sustainable, healthy and fair for all. This includes ensuring fair space and segregated routes for people on foot and bicycles. 

fc1 learn more

Brake responds to consultation on Clean Air Zone implementation in England

Brake, the road safety charity's response to DEFRA's consultation on Clean Air Zone implementation, submitted 9th December 2016

1. Are the right measures set out in section 2?

Section two of the Clean Air Zone Framework is a comprehensive and detailed policy document, suggesting positive steps towards reducing vehicle emissions and taking a safe, sustainable and healthy approach to transport within major urban centres. The measures drafted to provide the five cities designated Clean Air Zones (CAZ) with practical initiatives designed to improve air quality are effective and appropriate for reducing vehicle emissions within the CAZ. While there are some policy-gaps within the document particularly in terms of resources, Brake would support the implementation of these measures.

The measures in section two are described as being ‘evidence-based’, designed to engage and inform the wider public and set down clear regulatory measures and establish definitive emission standards based on best practice. They provide policy-makers with the flexibility to adapt these measures to their local environment and ambitions, encouraging economic growth and regional co-operation but not at the expense of the sustainability agenda.

The measures within this section cover a wide policy spectrum, proposing initiatives that will improve public health, road safety, economic development and local agendas. The document clearly states that it aims to encourage “immediate action with air quality and wider approaches” in mind. Although Brake would support immediate action in order to stem the ever-increasing levels of vehicle emissions in the UK, we would not support this at the expense of effective policies. We cannot afford to sacrifice practical interventions and best practice approaches to increase the speed of implementation. The government and local authorities must work towards implementing these measures in a quick but also comprehensive manner or risk reducing their impact in the long-run.

Traditionally, air pollution is understood as being thick clouds of smog and dust, but carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxides (NOx) and particulate matter are largely invisible to the eye and as a result, many do not see it as a significant threat. By physically outlining the risks within the CAZ, local authorities have the chance to draw public attention to a wider problem that they might not otherwise consider during their day-to-day activities.  

Brake would agree with the document’s assessment of land-use as a critical element of any strategy to reduce vehicle emissions: infrastructure development and traffic management interventions can both be used as a means of reducing or increasing vehicle emissions on the road network, depending on their design. Officials responsible for the design and implementation of road management schemes must keep this in mind and ensure that their plans are clear, coherent and easily navigable by the wider public.

Measures promoting joined-up working between government departments and local authorities will be vital to the development and progression of the CAZ. If current funding trends continue, it is important that these groups find common ground to pool their resources and achieve their overarching goals of improving the living and working conditions in towns and cities. However, Brake would emphasise that responsibility cannot solely be placed on local authorities or on single government departments. This is an international and nationwide problem that requires central leadership and support in terms of policies, funding and research. Without the support of Westminster the CAZ are unlikely to receive the consideration and enforcement they require to be fruitful. Evidence has shown at political will is a critical element of any sustainability policy and, with the government’s recent history of failing to meet expectations in air quality policy, it is all the more important that they are seen to be supporting the CAZ at the national level.

The measures aimed at promoting healthy and active travel are a key area to promote joined up working, as the outcome will affect a range of government departments, including DfT, DEFRA, Public Health England and local authorities across the UK. The broad scope of active travel and its potential benefits requires a cross-departmental response to react appropriately and comprehensively to the issue, and an approach that the government has yet to fully provide.

Brake strongly supports government and local authority sponsorship of innovation and adaption as a means of supporting the CAZ, particularly the incentives encouraging the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles. The range and availability of this technology has escalated in recent years, matched by an increased demand for alternative-fuel vehicles as people seek to take advantage of the environmental and cost-incentive benefits, particularly in the wake of the ‘Diesel-gate’ scandal. However, these vehicles are not a catch-all solution and must be supported by infrastructure developments, including the installation of charge points within the CAZ, properly regulated and maintained road environments, speed restrictions and other environmentally-friendly policies.   

2. Are there additional measures that should be highlighted under each theme?

Brake would suggest that while the measures are a comprehensive representation of the action that needs to be taken to promote sustainable policies and secure the effectiveness of the Clean Air Zones within selected cities, the more detailed elements of these measures must be carefully planned and enacted. Central government and local authorities must work holistically towards the development of a safe, sustainable, healthy and fair environment within our cities or risk the failure of the scheme in its entirety.  

3. In addition to the draft framework, are there other positive measures that a) local and b) central government could introduce to encourage and support clean air in our cities?

Local authorities could also engage with international examples of best practice for promoting clean air and healthier lives within towns and cities. Taking advice from the technological and political trailblazers in the development of eco-friendly cities could provide ideas for affordable, effective and established policy ideas that could further the sustainability agenda in future.

Although local authorities are central to the Clean Air Zones, adapting the measures and regulations to suit their environment and provide the optimum advantages for that region, central government’s role cannot be forgotten and cannot be allowed to fade into the background. It is vital that central government provides overarching leadership and support if the Clean Air Zones are not only to survive but thrive. While the framework is a step in the right direction, Westminster must continue to play a fundamental role providing political will and resources to safeguard the improvement of air quality and potentially expand the scheme beyond its initial boundaries.  

4.  Are the operational standards and requirements set out in Section 3 and Annex A of the framework acceptable?

The standards and requirements set out in section three are detailed and strategic, combining more technical requirements, such as vehicle types, emission levels and geographical boundaries, with more socio-economic preparation that encourages community engagement and effective investment. Brake would support this approach, as it takes the wants and needs of the population into account while basing its regulatory measures on international best practice, such as the EU vehicle emission standards.

The separation of vehicle ‘classes’ based on their pollutant levels is an important element of vehicle standards. The Low-emission zone in London has established the effectiveness of this approach, chiefly regarding HGVs, as local authorities work towards the ambitious aims set out in the Clean Air Zones Framework.    

Although the document provides an outline of exemptions from the CAZ, we would recommend that local authorities and central government ensure that this only applies to those with particularly difficult circumstances and doesn’t provide a loophole for illegal road users with little consideration for the environment and health of their community. Brake would also urge central government to further incentivise the uptake of hybrid vehicles and ultra-low emission vehicles for ‘community vehicles’. As, though they are exempt from the CAZ restrictions as necessarily resources within their communities, they can be made more environmentally-friendly and still operate effectively within their local area. 

5. Do you agree with the requirements set out in Clean Air Zones for taxis and private hire vehicles should be equivalent?

Although Brake supports vehicles being charged equally to discourage their used within the CAZ, we would question who would be held responsible for the infraction in the case of the private hire vehicle: the individual hiring the car or the company responsible for hiring it out.

The individual responsible or hiring the vehicle would be aware that they were driving through a Clean Air Zone, so they should be required to pay. However, there is the unfortunate possibility that they could have been misinformed of the vehicles’ operational standards and emissions when they hired the vehicle. Therefore, Brake would argue that the government should make it a legal requirement for the disclosure of vehicle emission details upon the acquisition of the vehicle in question, to avoid such a situation arising.

Similarly, even though a private hire organisation should be aware if their vehicles’ operational standards and emissions, they would be unaware of the route that their customer plans to take. In order to prevent confusion in situations such as these, Brake would recommend stronger regulation of hired vehicles and once again recommend a clear requirement for the disclosure of a hired vehicle’s emission standards upon rental.

6. Do you agree that the standards should be updated periodically?

The standards set down within the framework should be updated periodically. Vehicle technology and environmental; policy are both developing rapidly, often in a symbiotic manner, as a technological innovation encourages legislation or alterations to environmental policy, or vice versa.

It is, therefore, crucial that a rolling system of review is enacted, to ensure that solutions to future dangers, which may not even be considered at this early stage, are accounted for within the UK’s legislative framework. Innovations in terms of fuel emissions and vehicle standards would also have to be accounted for and adapted to within the Clean Air Zones and a periodical system of updates would prevent central government and local authorities from being left behind in terms of international policy or air quality standards.

Brake advocates speed and proficiency in the government’s response to this technological rapid development, fuelled by international interest and capital. In order to reap the cross-departmental benefits to health, road safety and the environment, the UK must have up-to-date and effective standards and restrictions in place; an objective that can only be met through frequently schedules regulatory reviews.

7. If yes, do you agree that the minimum vehicle standards set out in the framework should remain in place until at least 2025?

Brake does not support the minimum standards remaining in place until at least 2025 as we believe that updates should be on a more frequent basis to encourage improvement and avoid stagnation. Air quality standards in the UK have unfortunately been beset by problems due to overreliance on the Euro V vehicle emission standards that underestimated the extent of damage that NOx emissions can cause to public health. Although this error has been recognised and the government is working to lessen the problem, this occurred due to the infrequency of regulatory updates within the UK and the EU.

In order to ensure that our standards and restrictions, even those at the lowest level of requirement, remain up-to-date and effective the government must shorten the time that these standards are required to remain in place. Policy-makers must also provide incentives to make sure that when they limit for minimum standards run out we do not backslide in terms of requirements and instead move forwards to a clean, safe, healthy future.  

8. Do you agree with the approach to blue badge holders?


9. Is the approach set out suitable to ensure charges are set at an appropriate level?

The decision to allow local authorities to set the level of charge for vehicles entering a zone is one that Brake would overall be supportive of, especially as the government has provides upper and lower bands that the charge must be set within. This will, in theory, prevent local councils lacking in support for the clean air agenda from rolling back on vehicle charges and regulations within the CAZ. The inclusion of penalty charges for non-payment is an important aspect of the charges as it provides local authority charges for the CAZs with a greater level of gravitas and the support of punitive enforcement measures.

However, Brake would argue that the ability of local authorities to ‘provide discounts’ on charges for early or prompt payment is not conducive to presenting the clean air agenda as a vital and decisive measure. As it provides a loophole for drivers that break the law that must be carefully regulated in the long-run.

10. Do you have any comments on the secondary legislation as drafted?

The secondary legislation that has been drafted in relation to the Clean Air Zones is a clearly defined and thorough piece of legislation. Brake supports the inclusion of the clause allowing the secretary of state to issue notice allowing additional local authorities to become a charging authority if they are able to provide a plan sufficiently targeted to reduce air pollution within their regions. We also strongly approve of the encouragement for local authorities to “co-operate with each other in the discharge of their obligations” as a charging authority. Encouraging involvement and innovation on a wider level will allow the government to support additional Clean Air Zones in the future and provide the local authorities involved with the encouragement needed to interact and cooperate towards the overarching sustainability agenda.

However, Brake is wary of the statement that the charging authorities will have “less onus on regulatory provision”. Although the current government prefers a less regulated policy-approach, without effective management of a strategy of this magnitude there remains a risk that it will not be enacted to its fullest extent.

11. Do you agree with the approach undertaken in the impact assessment? If no, please provide supportive evidence


12. Do you agree with the approach undertaken in the impact assessment? If no, please provide supporting evidence


13. Are you aware of any additional data that could inform the impact assessment? If yes, please give details.