You may have heard of serious accidents calling for collision reconstruction specialists to recreate the scene. Accident reconstruction requires a lot of analysis and investigation. It also requires a significant amount of training. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created the first guidelines in 1985. Reconstructions are often done by private consultants who are hired by insurance companies and attorneys, but forensic engineers and law enforcement agencies do work in this field as well.
Believe it or not, accident reconstruction is a highly scientific field. It’s similar to a forensic scientist working to solve a crime. In fact, accident reconstruction involves a high level of forensic science in order to investigate the cause. It also involves physics and the study of movement. Oftentimes, the results of such reconstructions are used to improve roadways and make them safer.
The first thing specialists do is thoroughly investigate the accident scene. They take a look at the vehicles involved and collect evidence. This evidence may include photos, videos, witness accounts and measurements. It requires a specific methodology. This means working backwards with known data, from the point where the vehicle rested after the accident, in an attempt to find out the beginning – i.e., what caused the accident.
The specialists will analyze everything about the vehicles’ systems, such as braking, steering, speed, use of lights and turn signals, acceleration and cruise control. Skid marks are especially critical in investigations because the length often correlates with the speed. An investigation of the road conditions is also important because ice, puddles and debris can all contribute to accidents.
Technology is very useful for crash reconstruction specialists. Three-dimensional laser scanning allows specialists to input measurements and create computer models of the accident scene and vehicle damage. In addition, many new vehicles are equipped with onboard tools that record crash data such as speed, braking, acceleration and seatbelt usage. Crash reconstruction specialists also use highly specialized software to create simulations.
Once the analysis is formulated into a thorough report, crash reconstruction specialists then must present the findings – typically to a jury. This typically involves using forensic animation, which presents everything in video format so that it can be easily digested by those who may not be familiar with all the technicalities in the forensic science field.
Traffic collision reconstruction can help answer many unknown questions after a fatality accident. By understanding the cause, roadways can be improved, making driving safer for all.