Heavy Truck Crash

Accident Reconstruction Case Study

This accident reconstruction case study involved a collision between a tractor trailer and two other vehicles. The tractor trailer crossed the double yellow line into oncoming traffic, impacting a truck and a minivan. Kineticorp was asked to reconstruct the accident. The event data recorders (EDR) on each vehicle assisted in the reconstruction of this accident. Kineticorp was hired to reconstruct this accident and develop physics based animations for trial.

Video Transcription

News Caster: “Troopers say, A semi crossed the center line and hit a truck . Crossed into oncoming traffic- Investigators say that truck crossed the center line and hit the blue minivan. The pickup was hit first and ended up in the ditch, but the minivan took the brunt of the force, struck almost head on by the semi. The Accident investigators were not ready to say whether the wet roads or the drastic curve to the highway contributed to this accident.”

Nathan Rose: The client called us shortly after the crash occurred. It’s a case that involved a heavy truck driver who, according to witnesses, was swerving into oncoming traffic in the couple miles preceding this accident. Ultimately, the truck driver, as he went around a right-hand curve, failed to negotiate that curve, went into oncoming traffic, and collided with two vehicles, one in a very severe manner.  We were out at the site within a few days of this accident happening, and that really helped a lot in our investigation. I mean, you can imagine that being out there a few days after, there’s a lot of evidence still in place that we’re able to physically document. We were able to see the vehicles as well in a very short timeframe after the crash and to get those documented with the 3-D laser scanner. So we’re able to capture that data and preserve it before there’s any modifications to it.  So event data recorders on vehicles, they were starting to become more and more common. This is the first one in memory where we actually had an event data recorder on each vehicle, so on the tractor trailer, on the pickup, and on the van. So, that was great from an engineering perspective. We had the tractor trailer gave us about 100 seconds of data before the crash and about 15 seconds after the crash. In the 100 seconds before, we were able to see where, for instance, hilltops were because we’d see the speed decrease. So we were able to correlate that with the driver’s route before the crash. And it really confirmed that that speed data was part of this crash.

Tomas Owens: In a case like this, we utilize photogrammetry to give us an idea of where the locations of these pieces of evidence lie, whether that’s debris, the vehicles’ final resting place, a lot of the key components that are involved with the physics and the motion of the action itself.

Neal Carter: We had the constraints of the event data recorder data from all the vehicles, and we had to make that mesh well with our simulation, mesh well with the physical evidence that was on the roadway, mesh well with the rest positions of all the vehicles.

Tomas Owens: One of the challenges involved with a case like this, when there is such a high amount of debris and impact, could be cleaning up the images to make it visually acceptable for an animation.

Nathan Rose: So we have the number of animations we created in this case where we are animating the accident over the top of a police photograph. So part of that process is determining the position from when that photograph is taken. And you’ll see that in some of the animations that we play in this case study where it’s over the top of a police photograph.

Tomas Owens: When we’re going to use an image, a lot more time and effort has to be spent in cleaning up these images to make them visually appealing as well as the condition that the road was at prior to the accident. Some of the other key factors involved in an animation, going beyond impact, would be simulating the vehicle to rest. That can be sort of a rocking or a rolling motion as the vehicle comes down. Some of that is given to us in part by the engineers. And through simulation software that gives us a realistic representation of how something this heavy and this big that has been damaged this much would realistically roll across the environment.

Nathan Rose: We utilized PC-Crash simulation software to generate physics-based motion for the vehicles, and that motion goes directly into our animation. And so what we end up with is an animation that is physics based and that accurately portrays the motion of those vehicles based on the data we have and based on the reconstruction we’ve done. So, the motion you’re watching in these animations in this case study is all physics based, and it’s all justified by the physical evidence.

Nathan Rose: We want to make sure that we build our animations in a way that they are admissible when we get to that point of going to trial. And so part of that process, part of what lays the foundation for an animation’s admissibility is us being able to show that what we’re depicting is physically realistic and justified by the evidence. And so that guarantees that when we get to the end of this process, we’re going to have a product that a judge is going to look at and accept into a trial.

The Process:

Kineticorp’s Nathan Rose and Neal Carter arrived at the scene shortly after the accident had occurred to gather evidence. The team was also able to collect information from the event data recorders of all three vehicles involved, revealing specific inputs related to acceleration, speed and steering wheel inputs as well as other significant data; this information revealed the positions and speeds of the vehicles. Initial witness statements described the truck swerving into oncoming traffic a couple miles prior to the event.  All this information was taken into account when simulating the accident in PC Crash.  The PC Crash simulation was then used to create physics based animations by Forensic Animator Tomas Owens.

The Result:

The investigation allowed our team to create an accurate representation of the accident resulting in a fair settlement prior to scheduled depositions.

The Team:

Nathan Rose, Neal Carter, Tomas Owens

Related Case Studies, Content & Research:

Event Data Recorder Research
Exemplar Vehicle Scan Analysis
SAE 2017-01-1413 – Video Analysis of Motorcycle and Rider Dynamics During High-Side Falls
SAE 2016-01-1497 – A Compendium of Passenger Vehicle Event Data Recorder Literature and Analysis of Validation Studies 
SAE 2014-01-0464 – Vehicle Acceleration Modeling in PC-Crash
American Bar Association, 2013 – The Misunderstood Witness – Event Data Recorders for Heavy Vehicles
American Bar Association, 2012 – Automotive Event Data Recorders Ushering in a New Era of Accident Reconstruction

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