By Rod Whithear*
More than 40,000 people in Western Australia saved themselves the inconvenience of queuing up in a police station or waiting on the phone to report a vehicle accident last year thanks to the introduction of a web based system for reporting accidents (www.crashreport.com.au).
Online reporting and service delivery may not be entirely new, but its demonstrable value to both customers and the government itself is worth writing about because all too often significant improvements can go unnoticed.
Implemented by the Insurance Commission of Western Australia (ICWA), www.crashreport.com.au has now largely replaced traditional channels for motorists to interact with the State Government.
I first came across this initiative as a customer (before joining ICWA) after my partner had the annoying experience of a four wheel drive reversingonto the bonnet of her car.
Being able to enter details of the accident using on-line forms on the evening of the accident made this a far more efficient process for the motorist.
ICWA has developed a unique system for the recording of motor vehicle crashes, and the automation of injury notification, so that Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Motor Vehicle Personal Injury insurance claims can be initiated. No other systems in Australia cater for the capability and functionality offered by this system. Crashes are now able to be reported 24/7 via web browser.
Prior to the introduction of these systems, crashes had to be reported separately to both ICWA and WA Police. Significant time and costs were incurred to process the annual crash reports to ICWA (40 per cent by telephone) and to WA Police.
ICWA had been advised that crash reports could take up to an hour each for motorists to report a crash at a police station. But the benefits from this exercise flow to others as well as the customer.
Aside from improving service delivery for motorists there have been tangible benefits from reductions in illegible handwriting, less manual scanning of forms into insurance systems and avoidance of considerable rework caused by incomplete details or operator error when accident reports are made by phone.
Aside from convenience, another benefit of realising online efficiency is that WA Police are no longer as tied up in the accident reporting process, thus freeing up valuable resources to be reallocated to frontline police work.
More specifically, 33 per cent of WA Police crash investigation resources have been redeployed to other frontline responsibilities. The WA Police have estimated that only 20 per cent of reports resulted in further investigations, while the remaining 80 per cent were reported for administrative and/or insurance purposes.
Put simply, our police in the West now deal with a far lower proportion of insurance related accident reports. Concurrently, investigation timeframes
have been significantly reduced across the board through the introduction of new policies and procedures enabled by the system, while there has also been a 75 per cent reduction in the backlog of outstanding crash reports held for investigation by WA Police.
Importantly, WA Police are able to vet and investigate crashes online. This means the quality of motor vehicle crash data gathered has significantly improved and this allows better analysis of crash causes.
Information from crash reports also enables the Department of Main Roads and the Road Safety Council to analyse crash data and determine future road infrastructure investments in WA.
Aside from convenience, generating better data means information is more easily exchanged between WA state government agencies. Crash statistics gathered through the reporting process are storedin a centralised crash statistics database enabling improved analysis.
Reporting of crash statistics has also been significantly improved by a data model that clearly represents data so it can be used in a meaningful way by several agencies – as well as being provided to private insurers on request.
Examples include reporting relevant injury information resulting from motor vehicle accidents to WA Health and providing spatial information to the Department of Main Roads to assess where accidents occur.
Other recent enhancements to ICWA systems include automatic vetting criteria for crash reports so WA Police can further reduce the load on investigating officers.
Further improvements will be enabled shortly by the addition of a feature that will allow crashes to be investigated directly by staff in the districts in which crashes occur rather than through central group vetting.
ICWA also aims to enhance interaction with private insurers to re-use crash report information to save time for the motorist submitting claims.
Having been involved in many electronic service delivery initiatives across governments in the past, it is pleasing to see a project that tackles a substantial challenge and goes on to make improvements for multiple stakeholders at a number of levels.
It’s what ‘public service’ should be all about.
*Rod Whithear is the Chief Executive of the Insurance Commission of Western Australia and a seasoned observer of public sector technology projects.
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