Nighttime Collision Case Study

Senior Engineer Neal Carter and Senior Forensic Animator Jim Marr discuss the visibility techniques and research conducted to help determine a vehicle’s speed that was involved in a nighttime collision.

Video Transcription

[Neal Carter]: So, this was a case where a box truck had a disablement event, had a mechanical failure and came to a stop in the fast lane of the highway and was sitting there for a while. Several vehicles that were initially in the fast lane were able to swerve out of the way and avoid impacting the back, but ultimately there was one vehicle that didn’t. So, that vehicle impacted the rear of the truck.

I was asked in this case to determine, first off, the speed of the vehicle as it hit the back of the truck. The speedometer, the back plate had a nice indicator mark that was 82-85 miles per hour, which is not in every case, but in this case was a good indication of the speed. I was also asked to determine how visible the truck would’ve been and to make an exhibit showing the clients and ultimately showing the jury how visible the truck would’ve been.

[Jim Marr]: Well, this specific case, this guy’s in a Jetta driving down the highway at 80 miles per hour and the visibility for this case… He had his hazard lights on. If he didn’t have his lights on it would be a totally different case because I don’t think he would’ve been able to see the truck until just a few hundred feet away, but because he had his lights on there’s plenty of time to react.

[Neal Carter]: We actually bought an Exemplar Jetta. We’re scanning it right now to get the three dimensional profile of it to take three dimensional measurements of that. We’re taking that out to a dark road. We actually use an airport maintenance road so it’s very little lighting.

[Jim Marr]: We took that truck out to Front Range Airport and we got an Exemplar vehicle. We set that up and then we set cones up every 100 feet and then from inside the Exemplar we take photographs at each cone.

[Neal Carter]: And what we’re doing is we’re looking at the back of that truck from inside the Jetta at different distances to determine when the driver could’ve seen the box truck on the roadway based on the headlights of the Jetta.

[Jim Marr]: Ideally, you would want to take a jury out to the scene just so they could see how dark it is and what the vehicle looks like, which is just not an option. So, you have to have your camera calibrated so that people can understand just exactly what the lighting looks like out there.

[Neal Carter]: Our team has a lot of experience and a lot of talent when it comes to visibility analysis. Especially nighttime visibility analysis. This is an area where we are the leaders in our industry. We’re able to take the video of the highway and digitally add information from the truck. So, we can digitally add that in a way that’s accurate and the end result is really seamless.

[Jim Marr]: We’ve written a lot of papers, we’ve come up with a lot of processes and I think Kineticorp definitely has a name in the industry for nighttime visibility.