Briefing: Independence in Investigation of Transport Accidents

  • June 27, 2019

Independent transport accident investigations derive their value and significance to society from the fact that they are the only kind of investigation that set themselves the sole task of systematically establishing precisely the truth and the facts of what has taken place with the aim of learning to improve safety and helping to prevent recurrences. In doing so, they can also help to assure society that the occurrence of such events is being addressed.

In practice, however, there are many differences in how investigations for this purpose are conducted across Europe. This raises serious questions about the extent to which requirements for their independence from investigations of other kinds are met.

With the endorsement of ETSC’s Main Council, the ETSC Board of Directors has agreed that promoting a set of principles for independence of transport accident investigation in Europe, principles under which the requirements for independent investigation could be met by the EU itself, by each Member State and by any other European country, should be an ongoing concern for ETSC, while work on this should not be at the expense of other ETSC policy priorities.

This initiative has been taken within ETSC without prompting or encouragement from any source of funding, but the Board recognises the importance of external funding to enable the ETSC Secretariat to devote effort to promoting the independence of transport accident investigation. The Board therefore issues this briefing, first to make known its concern by setting out proposed principles and indicating how work might be started on promoting them, and secondly to invite any sponsors who may wish to discuss funding such work to contact ETSC.

Sections 2-6 of the briefing are based closely upon the experience, expertise and writings of Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven, former chairman of the Dutch Safety Board and board member of ETSC. The remainder is the work of the Board with inputs from members of Main Council.