One of the most common lines in a media report is that police are “continuing their investigation.” The art and science of accident reconstruction is a combination of careful observation and the application of various scientific disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and biology. The Connecticut State Police has created a Collision Analysis Reconstruction Squad (CARS) that is used to carefully investigate any accident that results in death or serious injury. A review of their techniques provides a portrait of the methods used to unlock the mysteries of complex traffic accidents.
The basics of accident reconstruction
The first step in any investigation of how and why an accident occurred is the careful collection of information. The collection process begins with a thorough observation of the scene. A staff photographer makes a photographic and video record of the scene. Other members of the team will collect debris, ranging from tires, glass from windows, to parts of the cars’ bodies and engines. Also, about 85% of all new cars have computers that record information about the car’s speed and when an airbag inflated.
Forensic review of information gathered
The information that is gathered from the scene is then compared to forensic data gathered from many other crashes to determine whether a structural failure contributed to the accident. Mechanical components such as braking and acceleration systems are studied to determine whether they performed according to their design. Engineers also consult tables that set out the anticipated tolerances of the materials used in the automobiles involved in the crash. Reconstruction engineers often use GPS equipment in conjunction with photographs and measurements of tread marks to estimate the speed of each vehicle.
Using accident reconstruction findings
Lawyers who have been retained to recover damages from the negligent party often use the work of accident reconstruction specialists to prove their case. In some cases, an experienced attorney will retain a private accident reconstruction engineer to investigate the cause and perhaps testify in court.