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High-Tech Tools Help Make Sense Of Traffic Crashes

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“There is a lot of information obtained from tire marks alone,” Huibregste said. “They can determine if the brakes were applied or if a vehicle made a turn in a certain direction. (Reconstructionists) also test the coefficient of friction using the roadway surface to help establish speed estimates.”

Total reconstruction of an accident can take anywhere from 40 hours to several-hundred hours, Olig said.

After all the data is collected, investigators use computer software to diagram an exact map of the crash site and to simulate how the crash occurred. Prior to computer software, investigators had to draw a map of the scene on pencil and paper.

If an outside expert, such as a private consultant hired by a defense attorney, has a different theory than a reconstruction team, it is left to the court system to make a determination in most cases. All reconstruction reports are reviewed by other officers before the report is released.

Defense attorneys often hire outside consultants, but Olig said those experts may not have correct data because they often are not at the initial crash scene.

After a crash is reconstructed, the final report is provided to prosecuting attorneys to determine if there will be charges. These can range from a traffic citation to a criminal charge.

Reconstruction reports are often reviewed by the state Department of Transportation to determine if there are highway design changes that can be made to prevent crashes in the future, Huibregste said.

A 2012 crash that killed an Eden couple and injured their 14-year-old daughter illustrates the complicated nature of accident reconstruction.

Daniel Shea, 24, of Campbellsport was allegedly drunk and texting while driving south on Highway 45 in the Fond du Lac County town of Auburn at about 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 23. Shea is accused of crossing the centerline and striking a northbound car head on. Paul Grahl, 73, and 59-year-old passenger Joanna Grahl were killed on impact, according to court documents.

The Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office was called to reconstruct the accident. Olig said investigators have determined that Shea crossed the centerline. Skid marks at the scene show his vehicle crossed into the northbound lane and then back to his southbound lane where the crash took place. The Grahl vehicle, the investigation shows, moved into the oncoming lane to avoid getting struck by Shea when he initially crossed the centerline.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on May 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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