Nighttime Visibility

Accident Reconstruction Case Study

This case involved a box truck that had a mechanical failure and came to a stop in the fast lane of a major highway in the middle of the night. The box truck sat disabled in the fast lane with its hazard lights on. Witness statements indicated that several vehicles had managed to change lanes to avoid a collision, but ultimately a Volkswagen Jetta impacted the rear of the truck. Kineticorp was hired to determine the speed of the Jetta at impact and analyze the visibility of the running lights and the hazard lights on the box truck.

The Process:

Kineticorp was hired to explore two questions. How fast was the driver going at impact? And would the lights of the box truck have been visible to the driver of the Jetta in time to avoid the impact? Senior Engineer Neal Carter, determined the speed of the Jetta at impact by analyzing the vehicles post impact movement. By analyzing a tire mark deposited by the box truck after the impact, Neal was able to place the speed of the Jetta between 80-85 mph at impact. Senior Forensic Animator Jim Marr was asked to determine the visibility of the hazard lights and the truck itself at different distances to determine if their presence gave enough warning to the Jetta driver to avoid the collision. Jim performed a nighttime visibility study at a remote location to mimic the low light conditions at the accident scene. Photographs of the rear of the truck were taken at various distances, and were calibrated so that they could be displayed in an accurate manner.

The Result:

The investigation allowed us to create a calibrated, realistic animation of the accident that depicted the view that the Jetta driver would have had as he approached the disabled box truck. This animation was presented in mediation and ultimately helped in achieving a fair settlement in the case.

The Team:

Neal Carter, Jim Marr

Related Case Studies, Content & Research:

Motorcycle Headlamp Research
SAE 2017-01-1366 – Comparing a Timed Exposure Methodology to the Nighttime Recognition Responses from SHRP-2 Naturalistic Drivers
Collision Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3, 2016 – How Accurate Are Witness Distance Estimates Given in Car Lengths?
SAE 2007-01-4232 – A Method for Determining and Presenting Driver Visibility in Commercial Vehicles

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