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Paper 8th October 2001 - LGRAS(01)4


1. Introduction

1.1 This paper covers various points to do with the submission and the use of the STATS 19 returns for Scotland. Members of the Group are invited to comment on these matters at the meeting, and to contact the Scottish Executive Transport Statistics branch regarding any subsequent developments or difficulties.

2. E-mail addresses

2.1 To facilitate communication in future, Members of the Group who are STATS 19 data suppliers are invited to provide Transport Statistics with their email addresses by sending an email to: transtat@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

3. Submission of STATS 19 returns

3.1 At the LGRAS meeting on 24 April 1998, Members of the Group representing data suppliers agreed that every return (apart from the "December" return) should be made within 6 weeks of the end of the month to which the return relates. For example, the "January" return should be made by around 15th March, unless there were major unforeseen problems (such as those that arise from the conversion of computer systems). Because of the backlog which builds up over Christmas / New Year, it was agreed that the "December" return was an exception, and should be sent to the Scottish Executive by the end of February.

3.2 The Annex (at the end of this paper) shows when the Road Accident statistics returns for May 2000 to July 2001 reached the Scottish Executive. (The returns counted in the figures start with the "May 2000" return, because that is the first return that was not included in the figures in paper LGRAS [00] 7. The figures cover up to the "July 2001" return because - in terms of the "6 weeks" agreement - the August return is not due until mid- October. However, we acknowledge, and are very grateful to, the 2 Police Forces which have already submitted "August 2001" returns.)

3.3 As can be seen from the final column of the table, 53 of the returns which have been received to date (49%) were made within the agreed timescale of 6 weeks of the end of the month to which they related. Two Police Forces have been making regular returns within 2 weeks of the end of the month, for which they are congratulated .

3.4 The position in recent months has been better, due to some data suppliers catching up on some backlogs of overdue returns. However, three data suppliers are still not making their returns within the agreed "six weeks" timescale. Members of the Group representing those data suppliers are asked to ensure that henceforth they make their returns within the agreed timescale (that described in paragraph 3.1.)

4. Quality of postcode data, and of codes to identify non-UK residents

4.1 Among the changes introduced following the 1997 Quinquennial Review were the inclusion in the STATS 19 returns of fields to record the postcodes of drivers' and casualties' home addresses, with special codes used in the case of non-UK residents. Paper LGRAS (00) 6 provided some background to this, and described the position as it stood at the beginning of June 2000. It noted that the introduction of the supply of postcode information was accompanied by "teething troubles" in a few cases: the percentages of drivers and casualties for which "informative" postcodes were provided was very low for a few Police Forces for a few months. (For the purposes of this paper, an "informative" postcode is one from which one can obtain - at least - the "post town", or for which the special codes for "non-UK resident" or "parked and unattended" were used.) As a result, only 60% of the postcodes that were supplied to the Scottish Executive for accidents which occurred in 1999 were informative. However, the quality of the postcodes that were supplied for accidents which occurred in 2000 was much better: 85% of driver postcodes and 88% of casualty postcodes were informative. The postcode data supplied so far for accidents occurring in 2001 are very similar, with 84% of driver postcodes and 86% of casualty postcodes being informative.

4.2 At the time of writing, over 105,000 driver and casualty records for 1999 to 2001 (those received so far) had been provided by Scottish Police Forces. These have been examined, and compared electronically with the Postcode Index file. In only 0.4% of cases had a "postcode" that is obviously wrong been supplied - e.g. one mis-typed in such a way that the computer program could not identify even the post town, or where the postcode field contained something which could not be a postcode (such as "0" or "AAA"). The overwhelming majority of the "uninformative" postcodes were cases where the code for "not known" had been used, presumably because a postcode (or part thereof) was not readily available. There were relatively few incomplete postcodes (e.g. where, say, only "EH10" or "G1" had been entered in the field), or slightly erroneous postcodes (e.g. where an error towards the end of the postcode, such as letter typed as a digit, meant that it did not match with the Postcode Index): in only 5% of cases was it impossible to verify the postcode, while being able to determine one (or more) of the postcode sector, the postal district and the post town.

4.4 Therefore, it appears that almost all the "technical" problems affecting the supply of postcode data have been overcome. However, unfortunately, the improvements between 1999 and 2000 in the quality of the postcode data have not continued into 2001. The main remaining shortcoming is that three Police Forces use the "Not Known" codes in around a quarter of cases: on average, their returns include informative postcodes for only about 70- 80% of drivers and casualties (the percentages can vary noticeably from month to month). This is in marked contrast to the performance of their colleagues elsewhere in Scotland. Three Police Forces now provide informative postcodes in well over 90% of cases, and we are very grateful to them for the high quality of their data. The other two supply around 85- 90% informative postcodes, and so are broadly in line with the overall average. Those Police Forces which currently use the "Not Known" codes in around a quarter of cases are asked to consider ways of providing postcodes for such cases in future, for example by getting computer software like that used by colleagues elsewhere to obtain postcodes for particular addresses.

4.5 As was mentioned in paper LGRAS (00) 6, there are a number of reasons why the postcode data may be of great value, such as:

  • to identify foreign drivers, and non-local UK drivers - they were used for this purpose in the Tourist Road Accidents research project (mentioned in paper LGRAS [00] 2), and could be used for further studies (suggested in the report) to identify accident clusters or routes for such drivers;
  • they may help in the targeting of other road safety measures, by showing from where people involved in accidents have come;
  • they will enable analyses using "socio-economic" background information about the kinds of area in which the drivers and casualties live;
  • they will increase the range of statistics that is available for areas within Scotland - for example, one could produce tables showing the approximate numbers of casualties by area of residence, leading to more meaningful casualty rates per head of population than those based on the location of the accident.

4.3 Members of the Group representing data suppliers are asked to provide valid driver and casualty postcodes (or, where appropriate, the codes for "non-UK residents" and "parked and unattended" vehicles) in as many cases as possible.

5. Other points on the submission of STATS 19 data

5.1 The second edition of the newsletter of the Standing Committee on Road Accident Statistics was sent to Members of the Group under cover of Alastair Douglas' letter of 30 January 2001. It included a number of points which are relevant to the submission of the STATS 19 data. For convenience, they are summarised here:

  • the new format for Vehicle Registration Marks ("AA99 AAA") has eight characters, if a blank/space after the "99" is included. However, the STATS 21 specification of the data to be sent to the Scottish Executive allows for only seven characters for the Vehicle Registration Mark fields in the Vehicle records and in the VRM records. Therefore, the current VRM fields are not large enough to hold new format VRMs, if the latter have a space/blank in the middle. In order that all the seven non-blank characters are sent to the Scottish Executive, data suppliers should ensure that either the blank is not keyed in or that it is removed by their "export" programs;

the field Place Accident Reported should indicate whether or not the police officer attended the scene of the accident. Therefore, code 1 ("at scene") should be used whenever the reporting officer attended the scene of the accident, regardless of where the accident report/form/book was completed;

  • in STATS 20, under 1.17 Junction Control, Note D (iv) should be deleted;
  • in STATS 20, under 2.5 Type of Vehicle, the references to "agricultural tractors" and "Excavators" should be deleted from Note K;

5.2 Members of the Group representing data suppliers are reminded of these matters, invited to raise any questions that they may have on them, and asked to take account of these points in the preparation of their returns to the Scottish Executive.

6. Publication of the figures for Scotland

6.1 Provisional totals for 2000 were published on 14 June in Key 2000 Road Accident Statistics. Copies of this bulletin were sent to Members of the Group at the time (please contact the Secretary if you did not receive a copy).

6.2 The "final" detailed figures for 2000 will be published towards the end of November in Road Accidents Scotland 2000. Members of the Group will receive their copies shortly afterwards.

6.3 Members of the Group are invited to note these recent and forthcoming publications.

7. Provision of data on fatalities to the General Register Office for Scotland

7.1 The General Register Office for Scotland ( GRO[S] ) produces statistics from death registrations. Apparently, in a number of cases of death from accidental causes, GRO(S) does not receive much information about the type of accident, with the result that a significant number of deaths were being counted in the category for "other and unspecified accident".

7.2 Therefore, GRO(S) asked for, and has been supplied with, road accident statistics data on fatalities, including details such as the council area in which each accident occurred and each casualty's age, sex and home postcode. GRO(S) then used these data, in conjunction with the details that it already had from the death registrations, to code more precisely the cause of death, in some of the cases where the registration did not provide sufficient information.

7.3 Members of the Group are invited to note this new use of the road accident statistics data.

Annex: The supply of 'STATS 19' data to the Scottish Executive

From the returns for "May 2000 " to the returns for "July 2001"

Number of weeks between the end of the month to which the return refers, and SE receiving the data ( #)

Number of returns received

Cumulative number of returns received

Percentage of all returns received so far

Cumulative percentage of all returns received so far


Total number of returns received


Number for which the number of weeks is not yet known ($)


Total due to be received


( # ) e.g if a return for 'March 2001' were received around 3rd May it would be recorded as having been received 5 weeks after the end of the month to which the return related.

($) i.e. returns which had not yet been received by the time this table was prepared.

(18 September 2001).