The road accident investigation teams investigate all fatal road and off-road traffic accidents. Preventing them is crucial from the human perspective in particular, but also from the economic perspective. In addition, the teams investigate on a project basis accidents that have caused serious personal injury and property damage to clarify certain specific questions. A total of around 350–400 accidents are investigated annually.
The main aim of the investigation is to promote road safety. Accident investigations do not comment on guilt or compensation issues.
The Finnish Crash Data Institute (OTI) coordinates the work of road accident investigation teams but does not intervene in the independent working of the teams. OTI also takes care of the training of the teams, the use of investigation results, and information services.
The road accident investigation teams are in charge of the practical implementation of road and off-road traffic accident investigations. The investigation teams have expert representation from the police, the fields of medicine, vehicle technology, road maintenance and behavioural sciences, and other special branches as required.
There are 20 investigation teams operating in different parts of Finland. They have a total of approximately 300 members. The teams are mainly positioned according to the current regional borders. The teams independently study the reasons for road accidents and make proposals to improve safety. The investigation team members are subject to public liability and a non-disclosure obligation.
The task of the road accident investigation teams is to determine the underlying reasons for an accident and to propose the necessary actions to improve traffic safety. The material collected is used in traffic safety work, the work of public authorities, international cooperation and communication. The teams do not investigate guilt or compensation issues related to accidents.
Road accident investigation teams are notified of an accident either by an emergency response centre or by the police. The team aims to immediately begin an investigation at the scene of the accident. Members of the investigation teams are entitled to carry out investigations at the scene of the accident, inspect vehicles, and receive information from official registers and other sources to clarify the factors behind the accident.
Accidents are investigated with regard to the
- chain of events
- risk factors
- consequences and
The investigation follows the specified investigation procedure to the letter, and standard forms are used for the investigation. Comprehensive, consistent-quality material provides good opportunities to utilise it as precisely as possible.
The investigation methods have also adopted international standards. The investigation work includes participation in certain research projects sponsored by the EU.
The investigation team prepares an investigation report that includes a description of how the accident happened, the factors leading up to it and its consequences, as well as the investigation team's proposed improvements to traffic safety.
The investigation report contains no identifiable data about the accident or the people or vehicles involved in it. Upon completion, the investigation report becomes a public document. Other investigation documents prepared during the work are, however, confidential. OTI archives the investigation reports and the related documents.
OTI assembles the accident material into an accident information register. The data contained in the register is used annually in the following publications:
- a summary report on fatal road accidents
- a preliminary report on fatal alcohol-related road accidents
- a preliminary report on fatal road accidents, three times a year
The content of the accident information register may be used for scientific and statistical research and various needs of the authorities. Summaries and a variety of data stripped of all identification information are also used for other traffic safety purposes.
OTI coordinates the independent investigation of road accidents
The information gathered on accidents is collected in the OTI database.
The behavioural science expert member investigates the indiviudals’ actions and motives.
The vehicle engineering expert member investigates the vehicle.
The police officer member organizes the investigation and gathers background information.
The medical expert member investigates the injury and health-related background factors.
The traffic engineering expert member investigates the road.