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Paper 27th June 2000 - LGRAS(00)2

LGRAS (00) 2 - POSSIBLE COMMON DATABASE SOFTWARE FOR ROAD ACCIDENT STATISTICS DATA

1. After considering the outcome of the 1997 Quinquennial Review, the (English) County Surveyors Society suggested that significant savings might be possible if there were common database software for collecting, amending and storing road accident statistics data. This would facilitate the interchange of data between interested parties. And, when the "STATS 19" system had to be changed (e.g. following a Quinquennial Review), updated software could be distributed to Police Forces and Councils, which should save them some of the cost of rewriting their computer systems (they would, of course, still face the costs of changing any parts of their systems which were not covered by the common software - e.g. [perhaps] the sequence of operator prompts etc used for a telephone reporting system).

2. This suggestion was discussed by the Standing Committee on Road Accident Statistics (SCRAS). Subsequently, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), with financial support from the Scottish Executive, commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to investigate the feasibility of producing common road accident database software which could be used in a variety of computing environments and with a variety of data analysis and Geographic Information System packages. Val Davies, DETR's Road Safety Statistician, who attends LGRAS meetings, is the DETR project manager for the research.

3. TRL had first to establish what would be required of any common database software, by finding out from potential users about (e.g.) the kinds of data that they collect, how they process the data, and the variety of computer systems that they have. So, TRL held preliminary meetings with representatives of some Police Forces and Councils (including Edinburgh Council and Lothian & Borders Police), and then developed a questionnaire, which was sent to Police Forces, Councils and other potentially interested parties throughout Great Britain.

4. Completed questionnaires were returned by 168 organisations, including 6 Scottish Police Forces and 25 Scottish Councils. In order to add to the information obtained from the questionnaires, TRL met representatives of several Police Forces and Councils across Great Britain, including Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Glasgow Council, Grampian Police, Strathclyde Police and West Dunbartonshire Council.

5. TRL then produced a draft report, copies of which were sent to all members of a SCRAS sub-group (who include Val Davies, Andy Duff, representing COSLA; Lawrence Wynne, representing ACPOS; and Frank Dixon, representing the Scottish Executive). TRL will revise the report in the light of comments which were made on the draft. The sub-group will consider the final version of the report, and make recommendations to the next SCRAS meeting (on 5th October).

6 Should SCRAS decide that it is both feasible and desirable to proceed with the development of common road accident database software, it is likely that the next stage would be to commission somebody to produce a specification of such a database, including a description of the kinds of information that it would hold and the facilities that would be provided by the system for (e.g.) processing the data. Police Forces, Council and other organisations could then consider whether the proposed system would meet their needs. Then, if enough organisations were willing to "sign up" to use the common database software, and if central government could obtain sufficient funding, software houses might be invited to tender for a contract to develop and maintain the proposed system. The aim would be for the software to be written and tested thoroughly well before the end of 2003. Then, it could be distributed in good time for the intended users to have it in place before they implemented any changes arising from the 2002 Quinquennial Review, in order to reduce the number of changes that they would have to make to their computer systems.

7. Members of the Group are invited to discuss and comment on these matters.For example:

  • are there questions that they wish to raise about the proposal?
  • would their organisations be likely to use any such software? What would their decisions depend upon? E.g. would a key factor be the extent to which the common database software would meet specific - local requirements (e.g. either by being including all the data that they currently hold for local use or by being "customisable" to hold such data)?
  • would it be better to have common software which would be used for separate local databases across Great Britain, or a central national database to which authorised users all across the country might log on? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of each approach (e.g. likely benefits, costs, risks ....) ?
  • what should be the coverage of any common database software? For example, should it handle only "statistical" data (e.g. the "STATS 19" details plus related information held for local use) or should it also handle "administrative / operational" data (eg drivers' names and addresses, insurance company details, etc)? Should it hold only details of injury accidents? or should it also include details of "damage only" accidents, and details of any "nonreportable" accidents that may be recorded?