For those of us who read George Orwell’s book, 1984, the thought of “Big Brother” watching us can be a little chilling. But, when is Big Brother-like oversight a good thing?
When we can use the information to understand how people are injured and killed in vehicle crashes and how we may be able to lower those injuries or deaths. In addition, maybe it is also acceptable if it helps us understand what caused an accident and what might be done about it.
When I investigate vehicle accidents, I regularly use data from what is commonly called the “black box” or the “Event Data Recorder” in cars and trucks. We are able to very often secure valuable information that can assist in reconstructing what happened to culminate in a crash.
When inspecting a vehicle after a crash, one of the things important to obtain and analyze is black box data such as:
- Engine speed (rpm’s) for the seconds before impact
- Vehicle speed (mph) for the seconds before impact
- Seat belt usage (belted or unbelted)
- Throttle percentage
- Air bag deployment
- Brake application
- Steering input
- Force of impact (delta v)
Although not all vehicles have black box data that is useful in accident investigation and reconstruction, the number of models that do are increasing with each model year.
So, combining Event Data Recorder with the evidence at the scene, we are able to reconstruct the events of any given accident. The evidence at the scene typically includes:
- Skid marks; indicating braking and swerving attempts
- Yaw marks; gouge marks caused when the crash damage deforms metal and causes the road surface to be damaged at the point of impact. Sudden braking; the length of tire marks starting from when brakes are first urgently applied or the smoothing of the roadway when antilock braking occurs and skid marks are absent due to the proper use of antilock braking system (ABS).
We will prepare a detailed diagram of the accident scene, noting road configuration, impact points and all the above information. We obtain 360° photographs of the scene including vertical to scale aerial photos and, in some cases actually have a laser scan done of the entire scene; which allows us to virtually reconstruct the scene.
Collecting evidence and evaluating vehicle crash data requires experience and knowledge and, frankly, not just anyone is qualified to do it in a competent manner. That is why many of us at Searcy Denney have chosen to specialize in accident investigation and reconstruction.