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Roads: Traffic Officers

House of Lords written question – answered on 8th May 2008.

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Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What data are collected by Highways Agency traffic officers attending incidents; and what use is made of such data.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Government Whip, Government Whip

Highways Agency traffic officers attend a wide variety of incidents on the strategic road network and the data collected at each vary depending on the nature of the incident.

The data collected by traffic officers include the time, date and location of the incident, its nature, the number and types of vehicles involved, the number of casualties, as well as information about any interventions used to restore the network to normality. For a number of pre-identified incident types the names and addresses of the drivers and the registration marks of the vehicles are also collected. The agency's policy is that all incident data are stored in a secure command and control environment and access to data is on a controlled and audited basis at all times.

The agency uses traffic officer data in a number of ways, of which the first is proactive incident management. Incident data are initially used to determine whether the incident is one which the agency will lead or hand over control to the police. The incident data are used to set network signs, distribute media travel reports, and when appropriate, to activate formalised network diversion routes. Incident data are also used to mobilise the correct incident responders and provide them with necessary non-personalised information to ensure they use appropriate resources to resolve the incident as effectively as possible.

Responding organisations include the emergency services, motoring organisations, recovery operators who assist stranded drivers or remove accident-damaged and broken down vehicles from the road, and other government agencies such as the Environment Agency.

Current Highways Agency policy is that personal information is passed to these organisations only if specifically required to manage the incident, with the knowledge of the persons involved where it is reasonable to do so, the only normal exceptions being those incidents involving injury or suspected criminality.

Another area where the agency uses traffic officer-generated incident data is post-incident analysis by which the agency improves its understanding of the causes and impact of incidents, and analyses the effectiveness of the interventions deployed to reduce their incidence, duration and impact. It is agency policy that all incident data used for analysis have personal data removed.

There are two further areas in which the agency commonly uses data gathered by the traffic officer service at the scene of incidents. The first is in supporting recovery of the cost of damage to the road from those responsible for an incident, as well as dealing with third party claims against the agency. The second area is the passing of information on suspected criminal offences to the police and other agencies of the Department for Transport responsible for road traffic law enforcement, and the provision of a statement or evidence when requested by the police or coroner's court. Invariably, these areas do require personalised data sets to be used. However, agency policy is in place to ensure that robust processes and procedures control the use, access and storage of this information used for these purposes.

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