1. Scope. This guideline establishes the requirement that each State should have a highway safety program for accident investigation and reporting.

  2. Purpose. The purpose of this guideline is to establish a uniform, comprehensive motor vehicle traffic accident investigation program for gathering information -- who, what, when, where, why, and how -- on motor vehicle traffic accidents and associated deaths, injuries, and property damage; and entering the information into the traffic records system for use in planning, evaluating, and furthering highway safety program goals.

  3. Definitions. For the purpose of this guideline the following definitions apply:

    an unintended event resulting in injury or damage, involving one or more motor vehicles on a highway that is publicly maintained and open to the public for vehicular travel.

    the entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.

    Motor vehicle
    any vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power manufactured primarily for use on the public streets, roads, and highways. except any vehicle operated exclusively on a rail or rails.

  4. Requirements. Each State, in cooperation with its political subdivisions, should have an accident investigation program. A model program would be structured as follows:

    1. Administration.

      1. There should be a State agency having primary responsibility for administration and supervision of storing and processing accident information. and providing information needed by user agencies.

      2. There should be employed at all levels of government adequate numbers of personnel, properly trained and qualified, to conduct accident investigations and process the resulting information.

      3. Nothing in this guideline should preclude the use of personnel other than police officers, in carrying out the requirements of this guideline in accordance with laws and policies established by State and/or local governments.

      4. Procedures should be established to assure coordination, cooperation, and exchange of information among local, State, and Federal agencies having responsibility for the investigation of accidents and subsequent processing of resulting data.

      5. Each State should establish procedures for entering accident information into the statewide traffic records system established pursuant to Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 10. Traffic Records, and for assuring uniformity and compatibility of this data with the requirements of the system, including as a minimum:

        1. Use of uniform definitions and classifications acceptable to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and identified in the Highway Safety Program Manual.

        2. A guideline format for, input of data into the statewide traffic records system.

        3. Entry into the statewide traffic records system of information gathered and submitted to the responsible State agency.

    2. Accident reporting. Each State should establish procedures which require the reporting of accidents to the responsible State agency within a reasonable time after occurrence.

    3. Owner and driver reports.

      1. In accidents involving only property damage, where the vehicle can be normally and safely driven away from the scene, the drivers or owners of vehicles involved should be required to submit a written report consistent with State reporting requirements, to the responsible State agency. A vehicle should be considered capable of being normally and safely driven if it does not require towing and can be operated under its own power, in its customary manner. without further damage or hazard to itself, other traffic elements, or the roadway. Each report so submitted should include, as a minimum, the following information relating to the accident:

        1. Location.

        2. Time.

        3. Identification of driver(s).

        4. Identification of pedestrian(s). passenger(s), or pedal-cyclist(s).

        5. Identification of vehicle(s).

        6. Direction of travel of each unit.

        7. Other property involved.

        8. Environmental conditions existing at the time of the accident.

        9. A narrative description of the events and circumstances leading up to the time of impact, and immediately after impact.

      2. In all other accidents, the drivers or owners of motor vehicles involved should be required to immediately notify the police of the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred. This includes, but is not limited to accidents involving: (1) Fatal or nonfatal personal injury or (2) damage to the extent that any motor vehicle involved cannot be driven under its own power in its customary manner, without further damage or hazard to itself, other traffic elements. or the roadway, and therefore requires towing.

    4. Accident investigation. Each State should establish a plan for accident investigation and reporting which should meet the following criteria:

      1. Police investigation should be conducted of all accidents as identified in section IV.C.2. of this guideline 18. Information gathered should be consistent with the police mission of detecting and apprehending law violators, and should include, as a minimum, the following;

        1. Violation(s), if any occurred, cited by section and subsection, numbers and titles of the State code, that (1) contributed to the accident where the investigating officer has reason to believe that violations were committed regardless of whether the officer has sufficient evidence to prove the violation(s); and (2) for which the driver was arrested or cited.

        2. Information necessary to prove each of the elements of the offense(s) for which the driver was arrested or cited.

        3. Information, collected in accordance with the program established under Highway Safety Program Guide line No. 15, Police Traffic Services, section I-D, relating to human, vehicular, and highway factors causing individual accidents, injuries, and deaths, including failure to use safety belts.

      2. Accident investigation teams should be established, representing different interest areas, such as police; traffic; highway and automotive engineering; medical; behavioral; and social sciences. Data gathered by each member of the investigation team should be consistent with the mission of the member's agency, and should be for the purpose of determining probable causes of accidents, injuries, and deaths. These teams should conduct investigations of an appropriate sampling of accidents in which there were one or more of the following conditions:

        1. Locations that have a similarity of design, traffic engineering characteristics, or environmental conditions, and that have a significantly large or disproportionate number of accidents.

        2. Motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts that are involved in a significantly large or disproportionate number of accidents or injury-producing accidents.

        3. Drivers, pedestrians, and vehicle occupants of a particular age, sex, or other grouping, who are involved in a significantly large or disproportionate number of motor vehicle traffic accidents or injuries.

        4. Accidents in which causation or the resulting injuries and property damage are not readily explainable in terms of conditions or circumstances that prevailed.

        5. Other factors that concern State and national emphasis programs.

  5. Evaluation. The program should be evaluated at least annually by the State. Substance of the evaluation report should be guided by Chapter V of the Highway Safety Program Manual. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should be provided with a copy of the evaluation report.