Belfast Telegraph

Accident no-shows by Northern Ireland police disquieting

Editor's Viewpoint

Most of us can remember a time when every road accident resulted in the police attending the scene, but those days seem a distant memory, as the shocking statistics in this paper today reveal.

Last year there were 841 serious road accidents - not simple prangs with minimal damage - where police did not turn up at the scene.

That is around 20% of every accident where death or serious injury occurs. Obviously, police go to the scene of every fatality, so it is an even higher proportion of accidents where serious injury occurs.

According to police, they attend every serious accident reported to them, so the inference is that these 841 accidents were not reported immediately, even though people were injured.

What could be the possible reason for that?

Some may be single-vehicle accidents where the occupant or occupants did not want police coming to the scene in case investigations turned up an unacceptable cause for the collision, such as drink-driving or dangerous or careless driving, or if the vehicle was not insured or taxed.

It is difficult to think of any other reasons why people would not want to have an official police report on an accident.

And why would police not be summoned if more than one vehicle was involved? One of the two parties, inevitably, would feel they were wronged and would want redress against the other. But how could they prove that either in a court or to an insurance company without an official, independent police report?

Another worrying inference from these figures is that a sizeable number of people are getting away with driving offences because there is no independent witness to the probable cause of a large number of accidents each year.

It appears that not only are the number of serious and fatal accidents increasing, but that an increasing proportion do not result in police attending the scene.

Surely that is the wrong message to be going out, especially at this time of the year. It could encourage people who feel responsible for serious accidents to fail to report the crash. Follow-up investigations make it more difficult for police to ascertain the cause of the accident, or whether anyone was at fault.

With our poor road safety record, we need to encourage better driver behaviour, not let wrongdoers think they can escape justice.

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