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Vehicle Data May Be Useful to Reconstruct a Collision

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller upset because the other driver lied to the police about a crash. They wanted to know if it was possible to prove who was really telling the truth about what happened.

Modern-day vehicles are, in large part, computers.

Yes, you might think you are driving a car. But you are driving a computer with a steering wheel, brake, and accelerator instead of a mouse and keyboard.

Some vehicles, like Tesla, are more like computers than others, but all models have many computer components.

The computer aspect of our vehicles is important to consider when analyzing a crash.

Suppose you can access the onboard computers and event date recording systems soon after a collision to download critical data from the vehicle’s computers. With effective use of technology, you just might be able to create a clear picture of the crash for jurors.

Crash investigators and accident reconstruction experts can use the data available after a crash to evaluate speed, crash dynamics, and other factors.

This info is often called “black box” or event data recorder (EDR) data.

Let’s look at the airbag control module. At a minimum, if the airbags deploy in a crash, it tells you that the vehicle dynamics at the time of the collision crossed the threshold necessary to trigger the airbags.

Add to airbag data info about pre-crash vehicle speed, the positions of the steering wheel, and transmission gear, as well as accelerator and brake pedal position, at the time of the crash.

Add GPS data to what we have already noted.

Commercial trucks have long used GPS technology for asset tracking, tax reporting, and hours-of-service compliance.

Technological advancements have enabled developers to create systems that record information like vehicle speed and location and the driver’s brake and clutch application at various GPS positions at the time of a crash.

GPS data for autos is often available too and may be recorded by satellite-enabled safety systems.

Thus, investigators can incorporate many data points into their analysis of the available physical evidence and data from other onboard devices.

Some GPS systems are so precise that they can track lane changes and rollover events.

Portable GPS devices, like cell phones, may also provide valuable data.

Accessing data stored in a GPS device requires specialized software and hardware to retrieve data.

The EDR data, combined with the physical evidence, can help establish relative speed and angle of impact.

The GPS data will provide latitude and longitude, and that info can be plotted on an aerial image.

Even if the data is insufficient to show if a vehicle was in the center of a lane of travel, it will often reveal if a vehicle made a lane change just before impact.

If a vehicle has onboard video cameras or video data recorders, even more info is available to reconstruct events.

Video is used mainly in commercial trucks and buses. These cameras have been instrumental in rollover crashes and crashes precipitated by abrupt lane changes.

Consider optical-based systems that warn of blind spots, how quickly they close on other objects, and whether they veer out of a lane or follow too closely. These systems, geared to reduce the risk of a collision by warning drivers of potential hazards, often, depending on the manufacturer, provide recoverable downloadable data.

When you couple new technology with the laws of physics, you can often make a detailed reconstruction of a crash.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”