A Thirsk-based policing team is to investigate all fatal and serious road collisions in Craven and the whole of North Yorkshire.

The team, which has been phased in over the past few months and investigated a fatal collision in Draughton last month, will free up the time of other roads policing officers, including those at Skipton.

The Major Collision Investigation Team (MCIT) will be headed by an inspector and will include a sergeant and six constables.

Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick said: “North Yorkshire is the largest county in England with a very varied network of roads, presenting numerous challenges for the police and our road safety partners.

“Sadly, fatal and serious collisions are a major part of police work and require meticulous and intensive resourcing to enable us to obtain the appropriate outcome for victims and their families.”

Last year, there were 46 fatal collisions in North Yorkshire in which 51 people died, including 16 motorcyclists. The police also deal with around 400 serious injury collisions every year resulting in about 450 people being seriously injured.

“This work can take up thousands of hours of police officers’ time,” said Dep Ch Insp Madgwick. “Having a dedicated resource for these investigations means that roads policing officers can get back on to the roads to carry out education, enforcement and preventative work.”

The team members have various backgrounds and have been brought together to provide a range of skills and expertise to the unit, including roads policing, investigation skills, family liaison and interviewing of vulnerable people. Its work will involve gathering evidence to determine the cause of collisions and to prosecute motorists who are at fault, interviewing suspects and witnesses, carrying out road checks and liaising with HM Coroner, the Crown Prosecution Service and the court service.

Inspector Mick Barron, head of the new team, said: “Investigations into fatal and serious collisions can be lengthy, complicated and require specialist skills and knowledge.

“They can involve dealing with distraught families who have lost loved ones, witnesses who may have seen very distressing events and victims who have sustained life-changing injuries.

“The team will provide a constant, single point of contact and expert knowledge base for North Yorkshire Police as well as enabling local officers to get back out to patrolling the roads and trying to prevent collisions happening in the first place.”

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: “As part of my job, I regularly talk with people affected by collisions, and see first-hand the distress they cause and the desire for answers and justice. By providing a single point of contact for roads policing, collision investigation and family liaison, this new team will help to free up roads policing officers to get back on the roads to help prevent these devastating and life-changing incidents.”