Traffic Accident Reconstruction
LEVEL 1 Course: 20 January 2014 to 01 February 2014,
University of Stellenbosch, Department Civil Engineering
Accident Reconstruction is the effort to determine, from whatever information is available, how the traffic accident occurred. Describing the events of the accident, in appropriate detail, is the aim of accident reconstruction.
Driving strategy and evasive tactics may be inferred in reconstruction from descriptions of position and movement. This is done by relating velocity and position of one vehicle or pedestrian to another, or relating velocity and position to features of the surroundings, such as view obstructions, grades, curves and traffic control devices.
Traffic Law violations are mainly a matter of driving strategy, for example, position on the road, speed and signaling to turn or stop. Laws specify what drivers and pedestrians must do or not do in using roads. Therefore, when one has determined by accident reconstruction how the road was used, determining whether the use violated some law follows naturally, but is often inconclusive.
Who was driving may also be in accident reconstruction. Sometimes the question of which vehicle occupant was at the wheel when the accident occurred is in dispute or is not sufficiently answered by reports of informants. Then an analysis of occupant injuries, positions of bodies and expected vehicle movement to its rest position can lead to useful conclusions.
Reconstruction suggests circumstances or conditions that were contributing factors, that is, had they been different, the accident would not have occurred.
If there were no eyewitnesses of the collision, reconstruction can sometimes form useful conclusions about how the accident happened from the results of the accident, such as marks on the road and damage to vehicles.
When two or more eyewitness informants differ greatly in reports of their observations, reconstruction can be very helpful in deciding which of their reports to believe or in some cases, whether to believe any of their reports.
Always remember that the results of reconstruction are opinions. Like any conclusions, they are more or less accurate and more or less credible depending on the information on which the reconstruction is based, on who does the reconstruction and on the circumstances under which they were made.
The reconstruction report will include a listing of the data on which the conclusions were based, explaining any scientific principles involved, describing, at least in a general way, the reasoning leading from the data to the conclusions, and finally evaluating the accuracy and reliability of the conclusions expressed. This report may include maps, drawings, computer simulations, computer animations, rendered still photographs.
These items direct attention to the facts available and explain more fully the conclusion. Reconstruction essentially interprets data gathered in lower levels of investigation.