Capturing best evidence from witnesses to serious road traffic collisions: a field trial of the Self-Administered Interview for Road Traffic Collisions

Swansea University

Amount awarded


Uploaded to Knowledge Centre
19 April 2022

When road policing teams arrive at the scene of an RTC the priority is to ensure that any casualties are dealt with swiftly, the scene is secured and that traffic flows again. Road policing officers also need to take comprehensive accounts from witnesses at the scene alongside these competing pressures.

In 2018, a collaborative project was funded which aimed to capture better information from witnesses to serious road traffic collisions through the development of a bespoke version of the Self-Administered Interview (SAI©) specifically for use with witnesses to road traffic collisions (RTCs). Swansea University, Goldsmiths, University of London and University of Portsmouth were awarded £77k to run this project.

The original SAI© was developed by psychologists at University of Portsmouth, Goldsmiths, University of London and Florida International University to help frontline officers capture detailed initial accounts from witnesses in circumstances where resource constraints limit their ability to take detailed verbal statements from each witness. Based on decades of memory research, the SAI© incorporates clear and comprehensive instructions to guide witnesses through their report; open-ended prompts are used to increase retrieval support, thereby helping witnesses to recall and report more information.

The SAI© was designed to be a general witness reporting tool, allowing its application in a wide range of contexts.

To maximise its efficiency in collision investigations, the SAI-RTC© was co-created with officers from the Road Policing Unit (RPU) within South Wales Police. The SAI-RTC© includes additional prompts about vehicle descriptions, road and weather conditions.

The SAI-RTC© was trialled with the RPU in South Wales Police. Participating witnesses were adults who witnessed or were involved in an RTC that was attended by RPU officers within the trial period. In total, 276 statements were analysed of which 58 were SAI-RTC©s and 218 standard reporting forms.

Key results from the trial included:

• Witnesses who completed the SAI-RTC© reported, on average, 57% more information than witnesses who completed the standard reporting form

• Most witnesses reported that the SAI-RTC© was easy to use, and that it helped them to remember the incident in more detail

• Most officers reported that witness reports were as detailed, or more detailed, in the SAI-RTC© than in the standard reporting form

• Information was easier to find in the SAI-RTC© than in the standard reporting form

To address officer and witness feedback, the researchers are now streamlining the SAI-RTC© and are developing an online version that will integrate directly with police IT systems (NICHE), allowing for faster, cheaper and more flexible administration.

Download the report from the Road Safety Trust website: