Thanks to modern automotive technology, safer road construction and improved tire designs, collisions on our roadways are typically less severe than they were decades ago.
A car wreck that likely would’ve resulted in a fatality in the 1970s often results in little more than a bruised ego in 2015. Still, serious collisions continue to occur on our roadways and regrettably, serious injury and death is often the result.
In the unfortunate event that a serious collision occurs, it is important for the occupants, police, automaker and society at large to understand the cause of the crash. This can unlock solutions to prevent similar crashes from occurring in the future.
The science of crash reconstruction is very complex and takes a plethora of details and data into account. Looks can be deceiving but math doesn’t lie; relying on proven forensic crash reconstruction methods to reveal the cause of a crash is at the heart of arriving at fair and accurate conclusions about the cause.
Bear in mind that once the cause of the crash is determined, the resulting convictions, penalties and jail sentences can be life-altering in their own right. An accurate revelation of the cause of a crash is critical for all parties involved.
So, how do the police reconstruct a crash? The process can be boiled down to two distinct phases: information gathering and analysis.
Information gathering starts the moment the police arrive at a crash site. Since many factors can play into the cause of a crash, the investigating officers must consider many factors, including weather conditions, the health and sobriety of the drivers involved, posted speed limits and the time of the crash.
More specific physical details of the crash site will then be measured and recorded, including the point of impact, the final resting positions of vehicles, the length and path of skid marks, the locations of scrub marks or paint transfer on other objects, vehicles or the road surface, gouge marks, the traction levels of the road surface and the physical damage inflicted on the vehicles themselves.
Finally, investigators will consider the injuries sustained by survivors of the crash. In the event of a fatality the coroner’s report will reveal information about the injures of the deceased, which can prove helpful in understanding the cause of the crash.
With all of the objective evidence gathered, pictures taken and measurements documented, investigators can then move to the second stage of the investigation: analyzing the data points to arrive at scientific conclusions.
For instance: with information on the weight of the vehicle involved, the coefficient of grip of the road surface and the length of skid marks, police can calculate the approximate speed of a vehicle prior to a crash.
When available, the ‘black box’ of modern cars can also reveal information about the cause of a crash including the braking point, speed of the vehicle and throttle position prior to collision.
Crash investigators shed light on the underlying causes of serious collisions and in doing so, they play an important role in vindicating the innocent, convicting those criminally responsible and preventing future collisions from taking place.
An example of a serious collision requiring crash-reconstruction can be found here.