Computers change accident reconstruction
Ken Urquart, captain of the State Patrol, said "These investigations can get quite lengthy."
Troopers have to collect crucial evidence at crash scenes and that can really tie up traffic, frustrating drivers. So, two captains want to work on a better way.
Accident reconstruction is changing with the click of a computer and the click of a camera. The State Patrol is taking to the air, using high resolution digital cameras to take pictures of crash scenes.
The pictures can be taken with or without the vehicles still at the scene. The pictures not only show the crash site, they capture important markings left by troopers on the ground. Hash marks indicate the number of feet. Using brand new computer software, the State Patrol can turn the picture into a reliable scale program.
"A picture's worth a thousand words," said Captain Mark Dunaski. "In this case, the picture really is worth a thousand bits of data."
Dunaski showed us the diagrams the State Patrol used, compared to the computer enhanced pictures. Reconstruction experts can determine in great detail what happened and why. They can get the information much faster, which is good news to the troopers who respond to crashes.
"They put themselves in jeopardy by being out there, so if we can take photographs and limit the time and exposure that those public safety officers are out there, it's a benefit to them," Dunaski said.
Sergeant Don Schmalzbauer has spent more than twenty years investigating crashes. He's now using aerial photos and evidence from the ground to create these 3D animations. One shows what happened in the school bus and van accident out in Woodbury.
"You can see the school bus actually penetrated the rear of the van," Schmalzbauer said.
The State Patrol hopes all of this technology helps them better reconstruct accidents.
But Schmalzbauer says most importantly he hopes drivers will wear their seat belts and slow down.
"The hardest thing for us is to see all the needless death on the highway," he said.
The State Patrol is still getting used to all this technology, but troopers plan to use it for criminal trials in the near future.