Crash Investigation and Collision Reconstruction
“Using this technology it is possible to capture the whole environment of the incident as it was, in a matter of minutes. In the time it takes to scan the scene the investigator can be carrying out other inspections or tasks, such as taking tire pressures, updating scene notes and imaging aspects of the scene or vehicles.”
Senior Collision Investigator
In addition to helping open roadways sooner after accidents, high density Leica laser scans of crush zones are easily captured giving complete, accurate data that allows the investigator the ability to superimpose crush data against the scans of an undamaged vehicle. Specific points may be digitally accessed for comparison and analysis against the two scans. Surface geometry is preserved and permanently archived for future verification of crush parameters.
Case Study – 3D Laser Scanning for Accident Investigation and Reconstruction by the Humberside Police
Accident Investigation Background
A research project, started in 2006 by the Highways Agency, set out to test the capability of 3D laser scanning equipment in collision investigation. Researchers wanted to find out if it was possible to reduce the delays for drivers on major routes by cutting the time collision investigators spend collecting data from the scene.
Humberside Police were one of two forces in England to trial 3D laser scanning technology in collision investigation. Using the Leica ScanStation C10, provided by the Highways Agency in 2008, Humberside’s experience and feedback on the performance of the hardware and Cyclone software would be invaluable. Decision makers needed to know if investment in the technology for widespread use in collision investigation by the Police Service could deliver measurable outcomes.
John Rusted has been a collision investigator for Humberside Police for 26 years and the Senior Collision Investigator since 2003. As one of the most experienced in his field in the UK, he has been at the sharp end of the latest innovations. At the start of his career he recalls laboriously surveying scenes using the chain and offset or triangulation methods until Total Stations and GPS allowed the layout of a crash investigation scene to be digitally recorded. This development reduced human errors whilst automatically producing 2D maps of the scene. The latest 3D laser scanning technology and associated software brings a new level of clarity, detail and accuracy to the investigator’s findings.
John Rusted explains, “Using this technology it is possible to capture the whole environment of the incident as it was, in a matter of minutes. In the time it takes to scan the scene the investigator can be carrying out other inspections or tasks, such as taking tyre pressures, updating scene notes and imaging aspects of the scene or vehicles.”
“In my experience, this approach, in comparison to a man having to hold a pole steady, in high winds or driving rain is consistently many times more accurate. The scanner doesn’t tire, doesn’t feel stress and is saving time and man hours for those attending the scene. Every collision investigation presents its own challenges but in urban areas and high speed routes with multiple vehicles, the appropriate use of this type of technology is the future.”
The Humberside force has approximately 60 miles of motorway to police and the priority is to keep the roads open and traffic moving. Using laser scanning a recent incident on the M62 allowed all three eastbound lanes to remain open whilst only the offslip was affected to allow the investigators access to the incident scene. With existing equipment, it would have been necessary to close the whole eastbound carriageway, possibly for several hours, whilst measurements were taken in what would have been live traffic lanes. On this occasion there was an additional saving on man hours both in dealing with the scene itself and in respect of the staff that would have been required to stop traffic.”
“The impact of road closure affects all drivers and we can do something to start to address it. No two incidents are the same and where people are trapped in their vehicles, the emergency services have to take whatever time is necessary time to free them, but if CIU can reduce the time spent at the scene, recording and collecting data, the disruption to the route is minimised.”
“Laser scanning automatically picks up detail which is time consuming to map, such as debris, multiple tyre marking and white lines, recording with pin point accuracy, a 360 degree environment even in adverse conditions. It captures the position of small components and the slightest marks and gouges in the surface of the road – automatically. Often the significance of the data isn’t realised until the post incident software processes the data and creates a 3D representation. Areas of dampness on the road and even faintly painted road markings will be recorded. Traditional surveying methods wouldn’t pick up these subtleties and it is this minute detail which gives a complete picture of the scene and the ability to view it comprehensively from any point.”
“It is important to add that the output need not be too time consuming. Something workable can be on the desk well within the hour.”
“With a more realistic and professional presentation to the jury now possible those who have to consider the evidence can have a better understanding of the issues.
We are presenting something innovative and new to the courts and can effectively move them through the environment of a specific collision.”