Highways England urged to help clamp down on ‘swerve to avoid’ crashes

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Highways England has been urged to make CCTV of “swerve to avoid” road accidents available to insurers, following advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Currently the highways agency’s stance has used the Data Protection Act to justify the deleting of CCTV footage after only seven days, even when it could prove liability in a serious accident.

However, the ICO has recently confirmed in an email that “traffic flow CCTV footage is not personal data.

The ICO said: “If encoded information cannot be reversed then, it will not identify an individual and therefore will not be personal data.

“[Traffic flow CCTV footage] is one-way hashed, which is a form of encoding that prevents it being un-encoded and so is not personal data.”

Responding to the clarification, Claims, Management & Adjusting is calling on Highways England to supply footage of ‘swerve to avoid’ accidents – where a driver is forced to dodge the vehicle of a negligent or inattentive driver which leads to damage on the former’s vehicle – to insurers.

Managing director of CMA, Philip Swift, said, “The safety concerns around distracted driving are of course paramount, but law abiding road users should also be concerned about the sharp increase in swerve to avoid incidents, and the legal, financial and administrative headache which frequently ensues.

“Take the following very common scenario: a vehicle in the middle lane veers towards another car whose driver takes evasive action and ends up crashing. In incidents like these it is often the victim who is pursued, completely unfairly, for the barrier repair costs, while the negligent party is never traced. To make matters worse, the invoice for damage to Crown property will often bear a Highways England logo. This is a double whammy for the innocent driver: they’ve been involved in a frightening accident and now the public body which destroyed the video evidence is apparently after them for costs.

“Including any relevant CCTV with these claims from the start would help ensure it is the truly at-fault who pick up the bill, rather than the victims of distracted driving or the taxpayer. In light of the ICO’s advice, surely it is time for Highways England to retain and make this footage available to insurers?”

A video of a ‘swerve to avoid’ incident can be viewed here

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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