Since 2001 and the publication of Richard Dykes’ report from the Work-related Road Safety Task Group, it has been accepted that one-third of all road acidents involve an at-work driver.
However, the road incident reporting system used by the police – known as Stats 19 – puts the figure at just 17% last year and 15% the previous year.
Now road safety organisations and some Government agencies, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), are raising concerns that the reporting mechanism does not give a true picture of the extent of at-work crashes.
HSE spokesman Mark Wheeler said the executive has become aware of problems with the accuracy of Stats 19 data. “It is an issue, we recognise that,” he said, describing the current reporting system as “a messy approach”.
In 2005, the HSE succeeded in getting changes made to the Stats 19 form to include a section on whether those involved in a crash were at work.
Despite this, the Stats 19 figures remain unreliable.
Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), explained why: “My suspicion is that the police would be quick to put ‘work’ under the purpose of journey for HGVs, LCVs and buses and coaches, but not so quick for cars,” he said.
“Remember this is a substantial document that the police have to fill out in often very difficult situations. It’s always a balance between gathering robust data and not overloading a police officer.”
Saul Jeavons, from road safety consultancy Transafe, said this under-reporting could have serious implications for fleet managers.
“This could be a major issue for fleet managers trying to persuade their board to take action if these new figures are used by the board to undermine their argument as to the scale of the problem,” he said.
“Our view is that it is actually more likely that the data collection is flawed.”
Mr Gifford said this should not stop fleet operators pressing management to ensure all driver safety obligations are met.
The Stats 19 form will not be reviewed again until 2010.