Road Safety News

Serious injuries under reported, DfT acknowledges

Tuesday 17th January 2017

Tens of thousands of serious injuries caused by road collisions may be going unreported every year, it was widely reported by various media sources yesterday (16 Jan).

The stats come from the DfT in response to a written question by Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Select Committee.

Ms Ellman’s question was based on information in the National Travel Survey (NTS) which uses data from hospitals, surveys and compensation claims to estimate how many injuries were not reported to police.

The stats show that each year from 2011 to 2015, between 380,000 and 540,000 slight injuries did not come to police attention.

Between 30,000 and 90,000 of these are thought to have been serious, compared with the 22,137 serious injuries reported in 2015.

Talking to the Telegraph, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The key to understanding any situation is to be able to trust the numbers behind it.

"The positive news is that the worst accidents which cause the worst injuries are almost universally likely to come to police attention, and hence get recorded and analysed to help avoid similar events in the future.

"The biggest cracks come at the other end of the spectrum where cuts, bruises and sore necks go unreported.

“However, the validity of some of these injuries must be questionable, not least many of the 1,500 whiplash claims which the insurance industry deals with daily and is working with government to reduce."


Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

Rumsfeld stated:
Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Bob you are correct about this being the tip of the iceberg, however as icebergs float around the undercurrents erode the lower levels until the berg turns over or shows a different face to the surface. The tip changes just like our priorities. We seem to be concerned by cyclist injuries yet the berg will roll and the next target of pedestrians or P2Ws will occupy our money and time until once more the berg rolls. Relying only on one set of figures is dangerous so we need to collect data from many sources to see the whole picture as best as we can. It will still be an iceberg but by chipping away at it we can try to make it more like an ice cube.
Peter city of Westminster

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Thanks for the reference Pat. I'll be at the Joining the Dots conference in March talking in more detail about the Stats19/Trauma Network links and injury severity discrepancies

As Bob suggests, previous work looking at the causes of collisions resulting in major trauma as opposed to those under the broad Stats20 definition 'serious injury' has resulted in a different demographic group.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Hugh The law does not require all collision to be reported to the police. It is only required where there is injury to others or where one has failed to give certain information of the incident/collision at the scene. That includes a collision concerning any horse, cattle, sheep, pig, goat and dog but not a cat.

AS regards what is considered a serious injury there has been a chart available for decades that specifies the seriousness of any injury which depends on many things relating to the area injured and the degree of injury and the subsequent prognosis. A broken finger will not register as being considered serious under that chart. Perhaps if we turn things around there are obviously situations that are reported to the insurances that are not known to the police. Perhaps the insurance companies should inform the police of such an incident. After all it should be reported to them within 24 hours of the incident. That would make some interesting reading of causation charts and significantly change the numbers of reported accidents on stats 19. They are all linked nowadays on computer so it wouldn't take much effort to set that up.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (1) | Disagree (3)

Bob: I think the reason the insurance companies insist on a police incident number is to try and deter the fraudulent claims in the first place i.e people would be more wary of giving the police a false report than they would be to the insurers.

I think in terms of 'measuring road safety' we should go by the number of actual collsions rather than the consequences thereof. Following a junction improvement or the installation of traffic signals for instance, multiple serious injuries from one collision post-improvemement would look worse on paper than one slight injury from say ten collisions pre-improvement.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

There is no doubt that bogus claims are making the number of claims unreliable. If one were conning the insurance companies then one is not going to report the incident to the police in the first place. That said, there is no doubt that the numbers shown annually indicate what I have mentioned before that reported incidents/collision are only the tip of an accident iceberg. Just goes to show what we don't know in terms of frequency of collisions. If we did know about them maybe we would be concentrating our endeavours somewhere else instead of the same old accepted and considered frequent causation.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

We must be mindful that injuries recorded as 'serious' under stats 19 could be from as little as a broken finger to a near-death level of severity. We know the system is far from perfect. The example we heard at the RSGB national conference about cross checking stats 19 records with hospital admissions and clinical definitions of serious is worthy of being rolled out more widely and would be money well spent in my opinion.
Pat, Wales

Agree (12) | Disagree (1)

I have always presumed that, apart from the most minor of collisions i.e. low speed causing only dents and scratches, that people instinctively ring the police anyway after a collision, in the belief that it is the right thing to do, especially where one party thinks the other is to blame. Where there is an injury, I can't imagine the caller ringing only for an ambulance, but not the police somehow. I don't think I've ever passed the scene of a collision where there wasn't a police presence of some sort so, like Peter, I do wonder if the 'official' figures are going to be that different from the reality. Possibly the only organisations who get to know of all collisions - damage only and injuries - are the insurance companies.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (5)

Part of the problem of under reporting of injury levels is that our overworked and under resourced police officers dealing with RTCs are not fully medically trained to determine the level of injury. The other part, as Hugh suggests, is that the minor incident may not have a response by the police and the injured party some time later will go to A&E either through pain or the belief they need to have been seen should they wish to make any insurance claim and the injury has escalated from slight to serious through time or delayed treatment. I am worried that the figure of tens of thousands could be over or under reported and we are still guessing. I have experienced hospital data suggesting multiple injured parties from the same incident because the person has been counted at the doctors, A&E and again A&E as the first notes are still in the system! We do know there is under reporting and this will help us with our view of the casualty situation.
Peter City of Westminster

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

I can only repeat the question I raised very recently elsewhere on the subject of under- reporting of injury accidents i.e. 'Are the ambulance service obliged to report injury accidents to the police if they think this has not already been done by those involved when at the scene?' and/or 'Would the ambulance control room automatically inform the police when a call comes in?' If 'no', then that would seem to be a solution. Also, to make an insurance claim, is it not necessary for the claimant to have already reported the incident to the police anyway?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)