Why Is Physics Important in the Investigation of Vehicle Accidents?

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Accident Investigation
Physics, Module 2 - Honors Extension

Introduction:

After a motor vehicle accident occurs, it will usually be investigated. Sometimes it will be reconstructed. The people that perform these duties are police and independent investigators.

Accident investigation:

The police will investigate an accident focused on any criminal actions which took place during the accident. For example: speeding, alcohol use, drug use, etc would be considered a criminal action. Independent investigators are normally hired by the insurance companies or attorneys of the parties involved in an accident. The independent investigator finds how the accident happened. He or she determines what caused the accident. Whether it is a policeman or an independent investigator analyzing the accident, they would probably start with an inspection of the accident site. Measurements are taken of evidence left by the vehicles. At the site, measurements are taken of evidence left by the vehicles, such as point of impact, final resting positions, skid marks, scrub marks, and gouge marks.1 The measurements are usually taken with electronic surveying equipment.1 They may be able to reconstruct the accident with the equipment and measurements. Vehicles are inspected next. Whoever is investigating will measure the amount of damage on the vehicles. This information will be needed if an accident reconstruction is performed. The brakes, steering, tires, etc will probably be inspected to see if they caused the accident. The reconstruction process uses physics to determine the speeds of the vehicles, and/or their relative positions during the accident. Pre and post impact direction of travel, length of skid marks, post impact distances moved, point of impact, and impact angles are all important information when reconstructing an accident.

Student evaluation:

I really enjoyed researching what happens during an accident investigation. I...
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