Every year, the police in Germany record around 2.35 million road traffic accidents, which are then processed by the relevant statistics offices. In the same period, around 4.5 million damage claims related to road traffic accidents are reported to insurance companies. This discrepancy clearly demonstrates that there are a number of different ways of interpreting the real situation with regard to accidents. It is thus essential that general accident data provided by police and insurance companies is supplemented by in-depth data for more specific research.
This is why the accident research unit of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) set up an Institute for Vehicle Safety (IFM) where traffic accidents are investigated in depth, in accordance with statistical methodology. Accidents are analyzed on the basis of expert reports regarding car damage, in case accident reconstruction, police reports and injury descriptions of physicians/hospitals and are entered in speciallydesigned databases. In contrast to former accident material, the GDV databases provide direct access to accidents involving specific car makes/models, and the accident material is updated every year with information on new car models. With an average of 200 data fields, the total number of accident details which can be examined here is significantly higher than that available from the statistical databases and enables a targeted examination of key issues. Four areas of research will be reported as examples: heavy goods vehicles, car airbags, motorcycle accidents and cervical spine injuries.