Highway Collision with a Tractor-Trailer

After losing control in the southbound lanes of a major highway, a passenger vehicle traveled across the grass median and into the northbound lanes before impacting a tractor-trailer, causing both vehicles to catch fire. ARCCA’s accident reconstruction team was asked to analyze this incident to determine if the driver of the commercial vehicle could have taken actions to avoid the impact.

Steps Taken:

  • Reviewed the available materials which included the police report, photographs of the involved vehicles and incident scene, and testimony from involved parties and witnesses.
  • Inspected the passenger vehicle and downloaded the event data recorder (black box) and infotainment module.
  • Inspected the incident site and documented physical evidence with measurements, three-dimensional laser scans, and aerial photographs/video.
  • Combined the results of the site and vehicle inspections with the evidence documentation done by police on scene.
  • Determined the sequence of events and evaluated the time available for the commercial vehicle operator to perceive and react to the passenger vehicle.

data recorder in passender vehicle

Imaging of the passenger vehicle’s event data recorder and infotainment module.

Final Findings:

  • The physical evidence in the roadway and median allowed us to track the translation and rotation of the passenger vehicle and pinpoint the location that it entered the northbound lanes, thereby becoming an immediate hazard to the tractor-trailer.
  • Utilizing the data imaged from the passenger vehicle’s event data recorder and infotainment system, it was determined that just under two seconds passed from the time the passenger vehicle could first be recognized as a hazard until the moment of impact with the tractor-trailer.
  • The operator of the tractor-trailer responded in a reasonable and prudent manner, braking approximately one second prior to impact. There was insufficient time for the operator of the tractor-trailer perceive and react, and brake to a stop.

drone photograph of collision incedent site

Drone photograph of the incident site.

Three-dimensional model of the incident site combining aerial photogrammetry with police total station data.