Be in no doubt... if there's a serious crash and it's been reported, we will be there, insists top PSNI officer
Police have reassured the public they will attend all serious road crashes reported to them.
Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph reported that the PSNI had not responded to one in five serious crashes in 2015, based on data obtained in a Freedom of Information request.
However, police have since clarified that the figures provided in the FoI included slight injury collisions, as well as crashes resulting in death or serious injury.
In an interview with this newspaper Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said that police responded to 92% of crashes which resulted in death or serious injury (588 out of 639).
He said the 8% (51) not attended were due to incidents not reported to police, and cases with delayed injuries which were later reclassified as serious.
Mr Todd said the wide spectrum of some serious injuries meant the results could be hard to collate.
"There's always a small number that aren't attended, that's generally not a choice by police," he said.
"It's because some of those aren't reported. For instance, if you have an individual who has been out to the pub, had too many drinks and thrown the car over the hedge and broken their leg in the middle of the night.
"Probably we're not going to be their first phone call. It's not uncommon for a family member to swing by and take them to the hospital. We'll find out about it the next morning because somebody has reported the car."
In another example he said: "We've had people walk out of cars unaided not wanting an ambulance and getting home, to realise they have a broken knee or thigh bone. So when the investigation is completed, it's categorised as serious, but they didn't ring it in at the time."
He added: "In terms of the headline, I want the public to be reassured that where you're involved in a serious collision where there are serious injuries and it's reported at the time, we'll always be there. The figures show that."
ACC Todd admitted there could be occasions when a quick response to a serious crash was impossible.
"I can't say there will never be a set of circumstances where we won't get there in the shortest amount of time," he said.
"There may always be that possibility, but it's the possibility rather than reality because we're a big organisation. At the very worst it will take a little longer, but we'll always respond.
"Resources are always an issue. We as an organisation are smaller now than it has ever been in my memory of policing, there's probably more pressures to come in next year's budget settlement."
Despite this, he stressed serious crashes would remain a "high priority response" and "it's much more likely that other things will drop off to make that happen".
In the middle of an intensive anti-drink-driving campaign this Christmas, Mr Todd said, for many, the message was landing on deaf ears.
"Last year we increased the tests we did and there was a 40% rise in the number of people caught drink-driving. Our figures this year are up a third," he explained.
"It frustrates the life out of me. People seem to think 'it won't be me'."
He added: "In serious injuries people think of broken bones. But there's the phrase 'life-changing injuries', a lot of this stuff you will never recover from. You'll need 24/7 care the rest of your life. For all of those killed on the roads, there's about 10 times as many have serious life-changing injuries. I think the impact on them is as big as the people who lose loved ones."