Vehicle and Site Inspections
Every impact leaves evidence behind. During vehicle inspections, we observe and document any and all physical evidence. This can include seat belt markings, seat position, light bulbs, visibility, and more. Each component can help tell the story of the collision. In a recent case, a 2010 Nissan was involved in a frontal collision. The Nissan’s EDR was too old for imaging, but a forensic inspection of the vehicle determined there was one occupant, wearing a seat belt, and the vehicle braked prior to impact. These details were carefully observed, documented, and preserved during the inspection.
Using a FARO 3D laser scanner, the vehicle involved in an incident can be preserved forever, long after it has been sold, scrapped, or placed back in service.
Inspections of accident sites are also an essential part of reconstruction. Preserving and documenting sightlines, road markings and similar information are critical to correctly interpreting and analyzing an incident. Often the environment can be as significant a contributor to a crash as the actions of the drivers themselves.
Using the laws of physics, intricately detailed vehicle models and scale images of the accident site simulations allow ARCCA’s engineers to study a vehicle’s behavior before, during, and after a collision. ARCCA’s engineers utilize simulations to visualize how vehicles respond to a collision, analyze tire patterns resulting from a loss of control event or collision, calculate impact forces, and study maneuvers or actions that may have prevented a collision. All simulation software used by ARCCA is scientifically validated and generally accepted by the scientific and accident reconstruction communities.
A vehicle’s actual speed, path, and behavior leading up to a collision can be visualized by simulating data collected from the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. This method can answer questions like:
- Which driver crossed the centerline?
- When did a left-turning vehicle first enter the oncoming lane of traffic?
- Did a steering maneuver cause a loss of control?
- Was a turn made too wide or cut too short for the curvature of the road?
Example: A left-turning Ford pickup is struck by an oncoming Audi sedan. Using the Ford’s pre-crash data and the collision severity recorded by its EDR, the Ford’s path to the point of impact was simulated, and the impact speed of the Audi was determined by iteratively adjusting the simulation and comparing the results to the known collision severity and post-crash movement. The following conclusions could then be made:
- The Audi was 260 ft. away when the Ford began to accelerate.
- The Audi was just 117 ft. away when the Ford crossed the center line.
- The Ford traveled 34 ft. from a stop to the point of impact in the oncoming lane of travel.
When forensic evidence from the scene of the collision is limited or no longer available, the damage to the vehicle itself provides a validated and reliable method of analyzing the severity of the collision. ARCCA’s engineers employ cutting edge three-dimensional laser scanning technology to document the entire vehicle. Extremely precise measurements are then taken to quantify the damage to the vehicle and determine the severity of the collision required to result in that damage.
Vehicle Performance Testing
ARCCA’s engineers go directly to the source with performance testing of the subject vehicle or an exemplar vehicle. Performance testing directly demonstrates the critical parameters of the vehicle such as acceleration rate, stopping distance, and turning radius. Real test data is an invaluable tool used by ARCCA’s engineers in research as well as accident reconstruction.
ARCCA uses Racelogic VBOX data loggers to capture parameters such as speed, acceleration/deceleration (g-force), distance traveled, turn radius, elapsed time, heading, and yaw every tenth of a second.
Heavy Truck EDRs / Inspections
Many of ARCCA’s experts are licensed commercial vehicle operators, trained and certified to access and interpret electronic data from Heavy Vehicle Event Data Recorders. Data can include diagnostic trouble codes, sudden deceleration events, and last stop records. Some of this data is volatile and can easily be overwritten, so inspections soon after the accident are encouraged if possible. ARCCA’s experts are also capable of determining which records apply to a specific case in instances where there are multiple records saved to the recorder. Often there can be several instances of sudden stops or hard braking events, and establishing which are relevant to an individual case is essential.
In addition to electronic imaging, our experts conduct full DOT Level 1 inspections, including damage inspections and functional tests of the lights, brakes, and air system in the truck. Air system checks include leak checks, pressure checks, brake stroke measurements and brake system inspection. These inspections can be performed on both in-service vehicles and trucks which have been damaged in a collision. Our experts are trained to evaluate engines from a number of manufacturers, such as Cummins, Detroit, Diesel, CAT, PACCAR, and Navistar (International). We also evaluate electronic control modules from Bendix and WABCO brakes (ABS, faults, etc.) and some automatic transmissions.
Mechanical Systems Inspections
Neglected maintenance, improper repairs, and inspection oversights can all affect a vehicle’s ability to avoid a collision. Worse yet, a steering, brake, or suspension failure can result in a sudden and unexpected loss of control leading to a collision. With a deep knowledge of vehicle systems, components, and dynamics, ARCCA’s engineers can evaluate the mechanical condition of the vehicle and determine what, if any, role the condition of the vehicle played in the collision. ARCCA’s engineers have the knowledge and experience to determine if failure was the cause or result of a collision and the effect the failure would have had on the movement and controllability of the vehicle.
- Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) scanning
- Tire condition and failure inspections
- Brake system inspections
- Suspension condition inspections and failure identification
- Steering system condition and operation inspections
- Sudden acceleration investigations
- Engine failures/ loss of power
“I never saw them” or “they came out of nowhere” is often heard in statements and testimony following an accident. Winding roads, elevation changes, signs, trees, and even components of the driver’s own vehicle can create visual obstructions that impair or delay a driver’s ability to detect an impending hazard. A sightline analysis performed during an inspection of the crash site can help determine whether the driver’s view was actually obstructed or if he/she had a clear line of sight to a pedestrian or other vehicle. ARCCA’s three-dimensional laser scanning capabilities can take that analysis even further by placing the vehicles back into the site of the crash and visualizing the sightline between them.
What if the sightline obstruction is due to the driver’s own vehicle? Components of the vehicle, such as A-pillars on either side of the windshield or large side-view mirrors, can create blind spots, and in tall vehicles, like trucks and buses, they may prevent drivers from seeing short objects directly in front of them. ARCCA’s engineers perform visibility studies on the subject or an exemplar vehicle to generate a three-dimensional map of the blind spots created by the vehicle. The maps can then be used to determine if the blind spots played a role in obstructing the driver’s view of a pedestrian or another vehicle.
Lighting and Conspicuity
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017, approximately 75% of pedestrian fatalities occurred under dark lighting conditions. A driver’s ability to recognize and perceive a pedestrian can be influenced by a number of factors such as, contrast, anticipation, pattern, lighting, eccentricity, time of exposure, and size. ARCCA’s engineers evaluate conspicuity issues with the use of advanced light metering equipment and the latest digital camera technology. The application of human factors and driver response research allows for a scientific approach when reconstructing collisions involving recognition and perception issues.
Recognition for a driver is initiated when a driver is able to see an object or pedestrian. When operating a motor vehicle on an unlit roadway, a vehicle’s headlights serve as the primary source of forward illumination. An important factor when reconstructing a nighttime collision involving pedestrians is when and where a pedestrian enters the headlight beam pattern. ARCCA’s engineers are capable of mapping vehicle headlights to analyze their output characteristics in order to determine when a pedestrian would likely be visible to a driver.
When nighttime collisions occur on roadways illuminated by artificial lighting, ARCCA’s engineers are able to survey the roadway with three-dimensional laser scanners and measure the roadway’s luminance and illumination. Synthesizing these data sets allows for ARCCA’s reconstructionists to determine how much light was present.
Surveillance Video Analysis
Often, nearby businesses and other locations with security cameras can inadvertently capture a crash or other incident on video. While having video evidence of a crash is extremely helpful, it takes additional work to derive data such as vehicle speed. ARCCA’s experts are experienced in analyzing and deconstructing such footage to retrieve as much information as possible. Also, with the advent of smart doorbells in residential areas, the opportunity for making use of this evidence is growing rapidly. In situations where the speed of a vehicle is still in question, ARCCA’s engineers can drive through the same area at a known speed and then compare the videos side by side to determine the incident vehicle’s speed.
Contact ARCCA today.
ARCCA has the experts you need and the experience you can trust. We have seven locations across the nation to better serve our clients: Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Tampa. Contact us today at (800) 700-4944 to discuss your project with one of our qualified team members.