In the field of forensic investigations of traffic collisions, it can be repeated over and over that little things matter. It’s the details that align the facts to describe the event and answer the questions about the crash. Sometimes those details are simple, and they are often overlooked. The damage sustained by a vehicle involved in an accident tells a reconstructionist a lot. Your collision reconstruction could benefit from mapping the damage profiles of the involved vehicle(s) to assist in answering questions about the incident.
Documenting the damaged area of a vehicle is as simple as tracing the outline of that crashed car, truck, SUV, or any other vehicle type. An investigator needs to capture the deformation of the vehicle’s structure caused by the crash. There are a number of ways that this can be done, and the methods range from complicated (which would produce a simplistic outline of the damaged vehicle) to simple (which would produce a detailed portrait of the damage). Making this task really complicated, one would use measuring tape to plot out the vehicle’s post collision shape. A bit simpler is using equipment such as the Sokkia Total Station to map out the vehicle’s damage profile point by point and producing a flat line symbolizing the bent metal form. Easier than the Total Station would be using the Faro 3D Scanner to capture the form of the wrecked vehicle in a three-dimensional production. All of these techniques should render an outline of the vehicle showing the damaged area with some detail.
The damage profile of a vehicle gives direction as to what was going on during a collision. How parts are shifted, bent, and deformed can help the investigator in their determination of the forces applied to the vehicles within the crash. The above mentioned methods of obtaining the data produce a basic outline and the product can be used for numerous areas of an investigation. Referred to as Crush, using the stiffness values of the vehicle, it can be possible to estimate a speed of the vehicle based on the damage.
Another use for the data is to align the vehicles at maximum engagement which can help determine first touch. Showing how the vehicles come together can help explain where they were as they approached the area of impact. Combining the diagram of the damage profile with the rest of the investigation such as photographs, scaled diagrams and tools can firm up your conclusion as to what happened in the collision.
Aaron (Al) Duncan II, ACTAR, is a vehicle collision reconstructionist with Warren. Prior to joining Warren, he worked for 23 years as a South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper to include 10 years as a Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team (M.A.I.T.) member. Al is accredited as a Traffic Accident Reconstructionist by The Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction. He investigated in excess of 1000 vehicle accidents and incidents, as a trooper. Then, as a member of M.A.I.T. for 10 years, he was involved in over 1000 detailed investigations and collision reconstructions. Al has testified multiple times in state courts and he has been court qualified as an expert in accident investigation and collision reconstruction. Al’s work expertise focuses on investigating and reconstructing vehicle collisions involving single and multi-vehicles, animals, pedestrians, motorcycles, heavy trucks, and commercial vehicles. He is also a skilled user of forensic mapping technology and computerized collision diagramming software for collision scene analysis. Al is experienced in the data download and analysis of airbag black boxes (Crash Data Retrieval Units) in automobiles, pickup trucks, and SUVs. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science from Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina and completed the Law Enforcement Basic Program at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia, South Carolina.