Highway Accident

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​​​Highway banner image. ​

​Highway safety investigations typically refer to investigations involving select highway crashes concerning issues with wide-ranging safety significance in the United States.

Please review our Information for Survivors, Families, and Friends Brochure for Highway Safety Investigations that describes what to expect throughout a highway safety investigation by the NTSB and additional details related to the information provided below​​.​

Assistance for Highway Safety Investigations

​Although there is no requirement for TDA to respond to highway crashes, our specialists work with the NTSB’s investigator-in-charge (IIC) who is responsible for leading the safety investigation, the NTSB highway investigative team, and local and state agencies to coordinate assistance and information for survivors, family, and friends, either by telephone or on-scene if ​deployed to the crash location. TDA remains a primary point of contact to survivors, family, and friends throughout the investigation and we provide updates on the release of information associated with it. 

Short-term Counseling & Referrals

​Short-term emotional support services and referrals are available at the request of survivors, families, or friends at no cost through our partnership with the American Red Cross. Additional information about these services can be provided upon request​.

Victim Identification Process

​Victim recovery, identification, determination of cause and manner of death, and death certification are the responsibility of the medical examiner or coroner in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. TDA can provide contact information for the appropriate local authority upon request.

Personal Effects

​The NTSB may take custody of personal effects like personal electronic devices​ or other items relevant to the investigation. Depending on condition, these items may be returned to the owner or a designated​ family member typically at the conclusion of the investigation. Personal effects not collected by the NTSB may be collected by the medical examiner or coroner, law enforcement or another agency involved in the response. TDA can assist with questions about personal effects retained by the NTSB or provide contact information for other agencies that may have personal effects in their custody if known.​

Vehicle Wreckage

​​​The NTSB has the authority to retain control of and manage access to the vehicle wreckage during the investigation. TDA can assist with questions regarding status of wreckage retained by the NTSB.

Media Interactions

​TDA does not coordinate interviews with media for survivors, family members, or friends; however, media representatives may attempt to make contact after a crash occurs. The NTSB will not release the identities of victims or survivors of accidents, but this information may be released by the transportation operator involved or local authorities where the accident occurred.​

Highway Safety Investigation Process

​Due to the possible complexity of highway crashes and the extensive nature of the investigation process, a highway safety investigation often requires 12 to 24 months to complete. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, the IIC along with their team and party members may travel to the accident site to collect information. The NTSB has the authority to designate organizations, corporations, or agencies as parties to the investigation. Only representatives who can provide technical or specialized expertise are permitted to serve as a party member and report directly to the NTSB. The NTSB will not determine the cause of a crash while on scene. 

​The following are reports and products that can be issued during the investigation:

  • The preliminary report provides a synopsis of factual information collected during the on-scene phase of the investigation. This report is typically available several weeks after the crash.
  • The final report provides a summary of relevant factual information, analysis, findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations issued or reiterated as a result of the investigation.
  • A highway brief consists of a short accident narrative, probable cause, and if issued, safety recommendations. Briefs are normally limited to factual information but may contain analysis. 

The report or brief replaces the preliminary report and is typically available 12 to 24 months following the crash.

​​You can access NTSB reports by searching the NTSB’s Case Analysis and Reporting Online Search (CAROL). 

​A docket contains relevant factual information collected during a safety investigation that is used in the development of reports, briefs, and safety recommendations. The docket is available to access at an appropriate time during the investigation, or at its conclusion.

Many investigations result in safety recommendations or safety alerts. The NTSB can issue these at any time during the investigation process.

Staying Informed​

If you are requesting information related to a highway safety investigation, please complete an Investigation Update Request Form, or contact us at assistance@ntsb.gov for additional assistance​.

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