The science of accident reconstruction

We look into the use of software as a risk-management and accident-reconstruction tool

When an accident occurs, it is of the utmost importance that an investigation begins immediately and that details are recorded accurately. An example can be followed from a road-accident investigation.

Craig Proctor-Parker, MD at Accident Specialist, says: “Operators should know that investigations into vehicle accidents must be done correctly and in accordance with the law. This requirement is legislated in the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) and in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, which states that a full investigation must be undertaken if there are any injuries. As such, it is a criminal offence to conceal evidence.”

When to use software in accident reconstruction

When it comes to accident investigation, proper training, certification and accreditation in the use of technology, equipment and software are necessary. One of these cannot supplement another without an investigation falling short.

“A practitioner would need experience in doing the job manually so that they input data correctly for the software to be of any use. The operator must be qualified in the use of equipment and software otherwise the use thereof can be challenged if the matter gets to court.

“The same applies to all equipment and software used at accident scenes, which need to be certified, calibrated and licensed in accordance with industry standards,” says Proctor-Parker.

Technology and software work together

Essentially, the use of equipment, technology and software supports the investigation, while providing the accident investigation specialist with a tool of the trade.

“For example, cameras allow for fast-paced collection and preservation of data, which reduces the time, and therefore cost, of piecing evidence together factually.

“When this is combined with the software being used, a huge accident scene can be drawn in detail, and with accuracy, in less than a day. Doing the investigation, reconstruction and cause analysis manually (as done in the past) would take days,” Proctor-Parker adds.

Furthermore, when confronted with physical evidence at a scene, the use of software can save time in calculating complicated equations, such as the influence of wet or slippery conditions. For example, software will require the input of a limited number of parameters to calculate the influence of environmental conditions. These may include; diameter and pressure of the tyres, width and depth of tread, weight of the vehicle, rate of speed, as well as type and condition of the surface.

“Simplifying the science and mathematical equations behind processing of this data while on the scene may lead an investigator down another path and allow them to concentrate their attention on something they may otherwise have missed,” he continues.


Of equal importance when on the accident scene are witness statements, but these may be inconsistent; people may over-elaborate unintentionally, or attempt to minimise their role in the accident by default.

This is where technology such as GPS devices and on-board in-vehicle cameras, or in-vehicle monitoring equipment and telemetry, comes into play. Telemetry can be paired with software that deciphers incoming data and translates it into plain English.

This information can be fed back to managers in real time and provide the capacity to prevent accidents before they happen. On the other hand, information can be extracted from GPS devices, video recorders and monitoring equipment after an incident to back up or discredit victim or witness statements.

When all is considered, equipment, technology and software are indispensable tools in the hands of trained professionals. Proper use of these tools will add credibility to a report and assist those who are not so well informed to understand the circumstances behind an accident more clearly.

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SHEQ Management

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