Chapter 4 - Multidisciplinary Teams
At the University of Helsinki in Finland, the team learned that all fatal crashes in the country are investigated by a multidisciplinary team that includes a police officer, vehicle engineer, traffic engineer, physician, and sometimes a psychologist. The investigation results are documented in an original folder and database with more than 300 variables using a methodology from the Finnish Motor Insurers Centre. Results can vary, depending on the composition of the team. From the examples given, it appeared that the presence or absence of a psychologist on the team could critically alter conclusions and interpretation of data. Considering all perspectives provided by a multidisciplinary team improved the overall research program.
No data were presented on the statistical reliability of this method. Since multidisciplinary crash investigation has been criticized in the United States for lacking such reliability, this caveat must be kept in mind when evaluating European results.
VALT 2003 Method
The Finnish Motor Insurers' Centre (VALT) has developed a coherent set of procedures, including detailed forms to be completed, for traffic accident investigation teams. Two points central to this methodology are (1) the analysis of risk factors, and (2) the composition and responsibilities of the accident investigation team. Two kinds of risk factors are considered. Immediate risk factors are direct, often active, factors that have had an effect in the situation. They include such items as road users' mistakes, faults in the vehicle, and geometric or traffic control device failures. Background factors, by their existence or omission, promote the origin of the event. They include such items as road-user health and motives, vehicle features and loads, road and environmental conditions, and system factors such as laws, enforcement, and road norms. The team deals with the following questions:
- What took place?
- Why did it happen?
- Why were the consequences serious?
- How can the incident be prevented?
- How can the consequences be prevented?
As already noted, a multidisciplinary team is formed for accident investigation. Some of the functions of each team member, as outlined in the VALT 2003 document, are listed below:
All Team Members
- Act as experts in their own fields on the investigation team.
- Function as contact persons to the authorities and organizations in their own areas of knowledge.
- Clarify the issues raised using the investigation forms in their fields for the accident being investigated.
- Examine other issues in their own areas if the crash investigation requires it.
- Participate in other ways to help the investigation team achieve its objective.
- Assembles the investigation team to study the accident.
- Calls in the experts required for the accident investigation.
- Organizes photographs at the accident scene and makes sure required sketches are made at the location.
- Clarifies, especially for the parties involved, the risk factors related to the background, and produces corresponding proposals for improvement.
Vehicle Specialist Member
- Investigates the technical condition of the vehicles involved and the damage caused in the accident.
- Examines the use of safety equipment on the vehicles, and explains, mainly with the physician, the effect of the structure of the vehicle and safety equipment on injuries.
- Makes calculations of the sequence of events and of the preventive possibilities of the accident.
- Clarifies risk factors related to the vehicles and safety equipment, and produces corresponding improvement proposals.
Road Specialist Member
- Investigates, with other members, marks on the road and draws conclusions about the sequence of events.
- Evaluates the effect of the traffic environment on the origin of the accident and its consequences.
- Prepares a sketch of the scene of the accident.
- Explains the association of risk factors-especially the road in relation to the structure, the guidance of the traffic, the traffic environment, the weather and conditions-and produces corresponding improvement proposals.
- Investigates the vehicle and, with the vehicle specialist, the possible sources of injury.
- Investigates, with the police and psychologist, the physical and psychological state of the drivers and pedestrians involved.
- Examines the risk factors related to driving ability.
- Investigates, with the road specialist, issues related to the traffic environment and traffic control, and evaluates the actions of the parties involved.
- Investigates, with the police and physician, the psychological state of the drivers and pedestrians, obtains historical information about the health of the parties involved, and evaluates the effect of these on the origin of the accident.
- Functions as a consultant in investigation queries within the team.
- Examines the risk factors related to driving ability and produces improvement proposals.
Thus, information about the accident is collected systematically. This information is evaluated from the viewpoints of team members with different training, experience, and perspectives.
VALT 2003 Method Contact Information
Professor Heikki Summala
University of Helsinki Traffic Research Unit
Siltavuorenpenger 20 D
FI-00014 University of Helsinki
Phone: +358 9 19 12 94 20