Directions After reading the following article, write a Quickwrite answering the questions at the end.
After a motor vehicle accident occurs, particularly one resulting in severe injuries or death, it will usually be investigated and sometimes be reconstructed. There are two primary types of people that perform these duties, the police and independent investigators.
The police will investigate an accident with the intention of determining if any criminal action took place in the accident. Some of the things the police look for are speeding, hours-of-service violations, mechanical violations, alcohol use, drug use, etc. For example, if a truck driver is exceeding his hours of service and causes a serious accident because he fell asleep at the wheel, he will likely be criminally charged. If that accident results in a fatality, the charge will likely be homicide.
Independent investigators are normally hired by the insurance companies or attorneys of the parties involved in an accident. The job of the independent investigator is to analyze the causes of the accident so that liability and/or financial responsibility can be determined. These independent investigators are often off- duty police officers, retired police officers, automotive technologists, or engineers. However, investigators from many other backgrounds are also common.
An accident investigation can consist of many aspects. However, the investigation usually starts with an inspection of the accident site. At the site, measurements are taken of evidence left by the vehicles such as point of impact, final resting positions, skid marks, scrub marks, and gouge marks. These measurements are usually taken using electronic surveying equipment. With this equipment, a computer-generated scale diagram can be produced and may be used to reconstruct the accident.
Vehicle inspections are another typical part of the accident investigation. These inspections will usually include measuring the amount of damage and damage profile of the vehicles. This information will be useful if an accident reconstruction is performed. The mechanical components of the vehicles such as brakes, steering, tires, suspension, lights, etc. may also be inspected and tested to determine if the condition of these components was a causative factor in the accident. The investigation might also include looking at driver qualifications, auditing logbooks, or reviewing other motor carrier compliance related materials.
. With the accident investigation complete, an accident reconstruction can be performed. Reconstruction is the process of using physics to determine the speeds of the vehicles, and/or their relative positions at different times during the accident sequence. Information such as pre- and post-impact direction of travel, length of pre-impact skid marks, post-impact distances moved, friction values for the various surfaces the vehicles traveled over, point of impact, impact angles, and weights of the vehicles are all used as inputs into the equations used to reconstruct an accident.
Questions Who is in charge of investigating an accident? What are the main reasons that accidents are investigated? What do accidents investigators measure or look for in an accident reconstruction? How is physics used in accident investigation? If you could interview an accident investigator what would you ask him/her?
John C. Glennon, Jr., BSAT. Through the Gears Trucking Magazine, Volume VII, Issue 1, January 2001