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Trooper Fred Cook, Crash Scene Reconstruction

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Trooper Fred Cook, Crash Scene Reconstruction


B.S., Wilmington College
Police Academy at Muskingum Area Technical College
Ohio State Highway Patrol Training Academy
Received over 380 hrs of advanced investigation and reconstruction training

Career Description

I work for the Ohio State Highway Patrol in the Reconstruction and Analysis Unit. Our Unit's responsibilities include:

• Reconstructing serious crashes throughout the state.

• Providing technical assistance to the Division's Technical Crash Investigators and field Reconstructionists.

• Providing technical assistance and expert testimony in criminal and/or civil cases resulting from Patrol investigated crashes.

• Assisting other state agencies, sheriff's offices, police departments and prosecutors with reconstructions and expert testimony.

Crash Reconstruction is very much like working a giant puzzle. Each crash has its own challenges and questions to be answered. The first part to any reconstruction is to see what pieces you have and what pieces can still be obtained.
We visit a crash scene and gather evidence both physically and electronically. We gather measurements of where physical evidence is located. This can be done by using tape measuring devices or by mapping the scene using an instrument called an electronic Total Station. The Total Station is much like the equipment that a surveyor might use only we use it to create scale diagrams of where evidence is located and surface elevations. Once the evidence is gathered, we can use it to create scale diagrams from which further measurements such as distances between objects, rotation of vehicles, and angles of approach and departure can be taken.

Once the needed information is acquired, many questions can be answered about the crash. How fast was the vehicle going? Did the car stop at a stop sign? Could the crash have been avoided if the driver was going the speed limit? We are asked to answer questions like these on a regular basis. Using physics, trigonometry, algebra and various other mathematical techniques, we can often answer the questions that no one else is able to answer.

Often in traffic crashes there are no outside witnesses and the drivers' versions of the events greatly differ. At other times, there may be no witnesses that survive the crash. One of the most exciting and rewarding parts of my job is unraveling what did occur. It does not always have a happy ending though. Sometimes knowing the facts about a crash only increases a family's grief in situations in which a loved one is lost. Other times, it clears or confirms the amount of responsibility a driver faces after a serious crash.

There have been many technical advances in the field of crash reconstruction. While the basis for the equations has been around since the time of Sir Isaac Newton, many new electronic advancements have been made. From measuring devices that measure distances, angles, and surface frictions, to software and equipment that read the Airbag Control modules in cars, the field of traffic reconstruction is rapidly changing.