Road accident investigation teams. Developing the on-the-spot, in-depth, case-study methodology

Markku Salusjärvi

Research output: Book/ReportReport


The history of Road Accident Investigation Teams in Finland goes back to 1968, when the activity was started, and since then the Teams have been studying the causes behind most of the fatal motor accidents. The case study method applied raised criticism, and a systematic development was started in 1978. This report summarises that work, which comprises three phases. Initially the existing activity and its importance were analysed, and the need for development charted. The work of the Teams has become a clearly-defined element in traffic safety work. It forms a link between the practical measures and research, between the different levels of administration, and even between the different subfields. The second phase consisted of a systematic analysis of the case-study methods, based on a review available literature. The old Finnish mode of study was then described accordingly and defined as an extensively-developed application of causal chain thinking. A more modern viewpoint was suggested, along with improvements in objectivity. On the basis of the above a new methodology was suggested and finally tested in practice as the third phase of the development work. The new method is in two parts: reconstruction of the accident and psychological analysis of information flow. We are not interested in the causes of accidents as such, but rather in the traffic as a system. In the analysis based on the reconstruction we attempt to exclude as many as possible of the seven defined accident factors. This part of the investigation is a purely logical conclusion based on objective on-site measurements. In the psychological analysis of information flow we define the information which would have been necessary in order to avoid the accident, and the information about the situation that the driver actually received. From this we try to ascertain whether the lack of information causing the accident was due to a mechanical, perceptual, or cognitive filter. The result of the investigation is a detailed description of the accident and of the analyses carried out.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages128
ISBN (Print)951-38-3256-2
Publication statusPublished - 1989
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

SeriesValtion teknillinen tutkimuskeskus. Tutkimuksia - Research Reports


  • traffic accidents
  • traffic safety
  • case-studies
  • accident investigations
  • motor vehicle accidents


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