Posts Tagged ‘crash investigation’

Bergen County, NJ Fatal Crash Unit Appreciates CZ Point Cloud

For more than 12 years, the Fatal Accident Investigation Unit (FAIU) of the Bergen County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office used The CAD Zone’s Crime Zone software to document crime and crash scenes. When the agency acquired a Leica ScanStation C-10 laser scanner the investigators tried using the point cloud software that was included with the scanner. They found that they could easily scan a scene, but they struggled with creating courtroom-quality diagrams from the resulting point clouds.

Detective Andrew Rich, a 14 year veteran of the Bergen County FAIU (now retired), evaluated The CAD Zone’s CZ Point Cloud software and he quickly determined it was ideal for creating crime and crash scene diagrams from scanned data. He appreciated the many tools included in CZ Point Cloud that are specifically for generating 2D diagrams – which are critical for most investigations. Only CZ Point Cloud makes it easy to work within a point cloud and accurately select the evidence points you need to build both 2D and 3D diagrams.

Trainer Finds Crash Zone Software Highly Intuitive

Neal Trantham, owner of Nebraska Accident Reconstruction, tried other diagramming software programs before deciding which one to use in the accident reconstruction classes he teaches. Trantham, who also is a law enforcement officer with the State of Nebraska, says students in his classes span a broad spectrum of talents and skills from young officers just beginning their careers to officers about to retire.

“My biggest challenge is making these classes interesting and keeping them flowing so people at both ends of the spectrum don’t feel the class is going too fast or too slow,” Trantham said. To maintain this ‘flow’ of instruction, Trantham chose The Crash Zone, from The CAD Zone, Inc. ( ). He felt The Crash Zone was the most intuitive to grasp of several drawing programs he surveyed, meaning students could be successfully creating diagrams very quickly.

Defending Your Scene Diagrams in Court

As an investigator, you may often be called upon to present your findings in the courtroom in front of a skeptical jury and an attorney who would just love to prove you wrong.  Your diagrams of the scene are an important part of your investigation and you want to make sure you can prove they are completely accurate. So, what are some rules to follow for ensuring that your methodology for preparing a diagram and diagramming the scene itself will be credible enough to withstand courtroom scrutiny?

Crash Reconstructionist Uses Animations In Courtroom Presentations

The use of 3D crash diagrams and animations can make a huge difference in presenting the details of a crash, especially in the courtroom. Lorne Starks, retired from the LAPD and a veteran crash reconstructionist, investigates crashes all over the country.  The members of his California-based firm, D&S Investigations, have collectively investigated over 30,000 traffic collisions and have reconstructed and provided opinions on more than 8000 traffic collisions. He finds that deploying animations is an ideal way to explain the events of a crash.

Starks has given expert testimony in more than 275 court cases involving traffic accident reconstruction, accident causation, damage analysis, and collision factors. He knows what evidence to look for at a crash scene and how it must be depicted in a diagram and animation. Given his lengthy experience investigating crash scenes and offering court testimony, what does he see are his biggest challenges? “Most of them have to do with measurements and physical evidence,” Starks said. “We find most reports we get do not document enough of the physical evidence. The challenge we have is trying to come up with different points of impact or different types of physical evidence such as skid marks, gouges, and the point of rest. This can be difficult, especially at a busy intersection” Starks said.

When he finally gets to a crash scene to be investigated, the scene could be a couple of weeks to a year old. “When we get out there, we rely a lot on photographs, and then you’re looking at reference points in the roadway—a crack or a painted line—and from there we can measure and document debris and physical evidence.”

Crash Animation Now Available To All Investigators

Traditionally, 3D animations, or movies, of the events surrounding a crash were recognized as a powerful tool to help present a case in court. However, they were so expensive to produce that they were only feasible for high-profile cases where big budgets were involved. Recently, the development of easy-to-use, accurate, software for creating animations has changed all that. It is now possible for every crash investigator to produce animations of a crash, based on the evidence they found at the scene.

Just ask Bobby Jones, Assistant Chief of the Knox County-Knoxville, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, and a trained reconstructionist. Jones feels that animations are an important part of his courtroom presentations. Says Jones, “We’ll always need to have a static diagram to get a start (for presenting crash scene details). However, a jury these days can comprehend animation, and the retention is significantly higher than words and diagrams.” Also, Jones adds, “Anytime we can illustrate in motion, we capture the attention of the jury because juries are typically inclined to want to see technology.”

Jones uses The CAD Zone, Inc.’s Crash Zone diagramming software, one of the most popular and widely used forensic drawing software packages on the market. With The Crash Zone he can create his 2D diagrams, incorporating all the exact measurements he takes at the scene. The program contains easy-to-use tools for creating the 3D model and animations of the crash from any viewpoint.