Road Traffic Accident Investigation: A Case Study

A road traffic accident investigator can find his job throws him into all kinds of situations and take him to all sorts of locations.

Insurance companies are a growing client of road traffic accident investigator (traditionally, their work was funded by the LSC). One such case which I came across recently was that of a French lorry driver who was charged with causing death by careless driving. The driver’s insurance company were looking for a dual skilled Collision Investigator and Vehicle Examiner who could bring their expertise to bear in investigating the causes of the accident.

The expert’s opinion was that there was a requirement to investigate the following factors: time taken for the woman (a pensioner) to cross to the point of impact, her conspicuity, given that a slower moving object in the peripheral vision is much less obvious, time taken to slow the vehicle at its weight at the time of collision from various speeds, the sight lines from the vehicle across the cab given the driver’s weight (the adjustable, air ride seat found in such trucks sinks when the driver’s weight is applied), any other vehicle defect which may have resulted in it performing below its normal standard, whether the driver was within his tacograph limits, as tiredness is a major factor in the erosion of awareness, and a thorough read of the Police Collision Investigator’s report to establish whether they had considered all the factors.
In order to complete this investigation, the consultant had to travel to France to view the vehicle as well as visit the site of the collision.

His examination of the vehicle concluded that the sight lines from the driver’s seat opened up exponentially, due to perspective, the further away from point of impact the vehicle was sited. Given that microscope analysis of the tacograph identified a speed of no more than 23mph, and that the consultant had been able to calculate deceleration rates under braking, he was able to piece together what was in view from the point where the pedestrian stepped from the pavement to her impact with the vehicle. All of this information was then pieced together in the form of a report, plan, photo album and DVD video footage with the intention of attempting to explain the nuances of a highly technical investigation to a jury.

It was concluded that a mistake on the part of the lorry driver had caused the accident in which the pedestrian died. The exact cause of the driver’s lack of awareness will be known only to him. From the legal point of view, they were able to advise that he was unlikely to be able to construct a reasonable defence and the insurance company were advised accordingly.

This case study reveals several interesting realities of the collision investigation industry.

At the very least it shows how complicated a job it is, as well as how varied it can be. In our day to day lives we do not concern ourselves with the mechanics of how these kind of investigations work behind the scenes, yet upon examination it proves to be fascinating.

The author works closely with Wayman Consultancy who provide road traffic accident investigation and vehicle examination services for lawyers, transport authorities, insurance companies, and emergency services.

Road Traffic Accident Investigator

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