Interactive Animations

Accident Reconstruction Case Studies

While animations allow viewers to understand how a crash occurs by displaying the series of events that lead up to and sometimes follow the incident, they can be limited by fixed perspectives, playback speeds, and more. By utilizing interactive animations accident reconstructionists can provide a more in-depth look at a crash by using the freedom of motion, timing and perspective provided by 3D animation software.

Video Transcription

I’ve been using Interactive Animations for quite awhile. What it allows us to do is to take 3D data, whether we’re surveying the data from the scene or taking 3D laser scans and importing them to our computer software, or 3D modeling software, and then taking our scans from the accident vehicles and piecing it all together. The reason I call it interactive is that you can look at how the crash happens from different perspectives.

But what’s most valuable to me, as an accident reconstructionist, is that I analyze the evidence and then I tie that evidence to the 3D model and then allow the jury, or my client, or a judge, whoever needs to see our analysis, how that evidence ties into the accident sequence.

Instead of looking at it from say, an overall animation, you can zoom down and see how, say, a frame rail or a tire is interacting. A lot of times those issues are important to reconstruction, especially if there’s some debate about it.

Interactive Animations allow you to answer very detailed questions about how the accident happened instead of just being kind of general about the dynamics and then credibility-wise, being able to understand to such a high degree, I think the jury understands that we know what we’re talking about.

Okay, so this is a case that we use Interactive Animations on to explain how the accident happened. It is out in California just outside of Oakland and it involves a tractor trailer that lost control, went into the median and impacted the concrete barrier, blasted through the concrete barrier and went into oncoming lanes of traffic and then hit multiple vehicles, and there were multiple fatalities. A pretty tragic accident.

We were asked to figure out how the accident happened and how fast the vehicle was going and what angle the tractor trailer had come into the concrete barrier. The tractor itself is sitting on two frame rails. And the frame rails of the tractor, it has a left frame rail and a right frame rail, and those frame rails are high-strength steel, they’re kind of like I-beams and those I-beams penetrated right into the barrier.

We looked at the angle that the tractor was coming in based on the tire marks and what components were impacting the barrier and fracturing it and it became very clear. Once we looked at the details of the tractor and the barrier and how they lined up, that it was no surprise why it fractured, but originally it was a puzzle that needed to be pieced together.

What happened in this case is that a tractor trailer, being driven at night, is going down a dark highway two lanes and ends up impacting another tractor trailer that had rolled over minutes before this collision. Here you can see on the right is the tractor trailer that is blocking the lanes of traffic and then on the left we’ve got the other truck coming in and he reacts by steering left and then hits the trailer and fractures it in half and comes to rest. And what was interesting is that the driver of this truck said that off to the right on the shoulder, he saw some reflectors and he didn’t know what they were, so he steered to the left and then, before he knew it, there appeared to be a truck that was blocking his lanes of traffic and then he put on the brakes and wasn’t able to stop and hit the trailer and broke it in half.

So, what we did is mapped out the headlights of the truck so that we could understand how the headlights of this truck were illuminating the tractor trailer that had rolled over. Being able to look at this in three dimensions helps us understand how the driver’s reacting and helps the jury understand how the headlights are illuminated objects ahead.

What happened in this case is that some teenage girls were lost and they pulled over onto the shoulder. And they decided that they needed to turn around, so they use this medium crossover to turn around and head the opposite direction. Well, they didn’t see a vehicle that was coming from behind them and impacted a Honda that was headed their same direction and push that Honda into the median and it hit this cable barrier here and rolled over several times and came to rest. This is the case that we had no evidence, no police photographs, very poor police report, not a lot of evidence to work with. So what we did is we went to the scene and took our 3D laser scanner, which we set up here and some of the spheres that allow us to piece together multiple scans and identify some of the evidence that we were able to find years later.

They, for some reason, didn’t document it either that night or later. And so here we are, coming back years later trying to collect evidence. I thought, again, this is a case that we’re not going to be able to understand anything about how the accident happened, and then we go out, scan the scene, find glass and find furrows and find these really unique damage patterns to the vehicle that lined up with that cable barrier that I was talking about. So, once you piece it all together, it all came together, so that we could understand it to a very high degree.

The credibility of our testimony, my testimony in the case, was so high and for us to get into the details that we did, and explain piece by piece, all the evidence at the scene, all the damages we saw on the vehicle, piecing it together, I mean, it was very methodical, took a long time. And I think at the end of the day the jury understood the detailed reconstruction that we did and then compared that to the other expert who didn’t follow this process.

What I find valuable in using Interactive Animations is that not only does it allow us to get a greater understanding of how the accident happened to higher degree of accuracy, but also it’s a fantastic tool to use to communicate to the jury so that they can understand.

The Process:

Kineticorp’s President and Principal Engineer, Stephen Fenton, describes the process of using interactive animations and how they differ from traditional, rendered animations. The differences are better understood by a discussion of three separate case studies, with differing situations, and show how these interactive animations provide an immersive look at the events of a crash.

The Team:

Stephen Fenton

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