Tag Archives: Collision Reconstruction Engineer

When Collision Reconstruction Gets Personal

James R. Schmidt, Jr., BSME, Senior Collision Reconstruction Engineer

Recently, I was involved in a non-deployment crash while returning home from my parents’ house. Two-lane rural roadway. Nighttime, dry, clear conditions. No street lighting. Dark lighting conditions. And when I say it was dark, I mean it was dark … you weren’t seeing anything other than what was visible in your headlight range.

As I recall, I was cruising along at 50 mph, when a deer ran out in front of me. It came from my left, across the opposing lane of travel, and into my lane in a flash.

Wham, a collision occurred! I had absolutely no chance to avoid. No airbag deployment, but plenty of damage to my vehicle. Given the severity of the collision, I knew right away there was no chance that the deer survived (and that was, in fact, confirmed at the scene). I called 911 and was instructed by the police department to clear whatever was dragging from my vehicle myself, and, “move on my way;” but, that’s neither here nor there.

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Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement in Pennsylvania

Road Work

Timothy P. Reilly, P.E., Collision Reconstruction / Civil Engineer

Pennsylvania officials have recently announced a new Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement pilot program and the vehicle-mounted camera and radar devices are already operational in several work zones across the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and Pennsylvania State Police are partnering in the program to reduce speeding in work zones to improve safety for workers and drivers.

The cameras will automatically capture a picture of the license plate when the radar detects a vehicle travelling 11 miles or greater over the speed limit in an active work zone. Violation notices will be then sent via mail according to the vehicle’s registration address. For the first offense, the owner of the vehicle will simply receive a warning. The penalty for the second offense is a $75.00 fine. Subsequent penalties will be $150.00 fines. Work zones utilizing these vehicles will have signs warning drivers and there will be a website where drivers can track the location of these vehicles.

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Dukes of Hazzard Jump… In A Minivan


Robert T. Lynch, PE, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::

A stake body pickup truck, towing a landscape trailer, was parked on the right shoulder of a two-lane roadway on a clear, sunny day. The lawnmowing equipment in both the bed of the truck and the trailer had been removed. There was no rear gate for the stake body, and the ramp to the trailer was down. Along came a minivan that drifted onto the shoulder of the roadway and hit the ramp square-on. Tire marks were observed on the wooden boards affixed to the sides of the trailer and stake body, showing the path the minivan took through the air. Scrape marks were also observed to the roof of the pickup truck where the underside of the minivan grazed the roof during its flight. Other than these minor markings, the pickup truck and trailer sustained no significant damage. The minivan landed in front of the pickup truck on the shoulder of the roadway, coming to rest on all four tires where it then caught fire. Fortunately, the occupants of the minivan were able to get out of the vehicle before sustaining further injury from the fire. The minivan sustained no significant crush damage.

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“Ride on Red” Law in Pennsylvania


Robert T. Lynch, PE, Senior Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::

For over a year now, a new law in Pennsylvania has allowed for any vehicle (i.e., car, bicycle, motorcycle, even a horse and buggy) to proceed with caution at an intersection if the traffic signal’s vehicle-detection system fails to recognize it. The traffic signal should be treated like a stop sign in this scenario. However, the law DOES NOT mean you can treat any red light as a stop sign, only those that are “out of operation” or “not functioning properly.” The specific law, Pennsylvania Title 75, Section 3112(c), does not define how long a motorist must be sitting at a red light before it’s considered to be malfunctioning, but PennDOT and Pennsylvania State Police encourage drivers to use common sense. The signal has to be obviously malfunctioning, such as going through several cycles without giving you a green light.

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California to Allow Testing of True “Driverless Cars” on Public Streets by Summer 2018

Robert T. Lynch, PE, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::

Currently, regulation of autonomous vehicle (AV) testing and operation on public roadways in California, and most other states, requires a “safety driver” to be behind the wheel to take control of the vehicle in the event of an emergency. A proposed new set of rules, to take effect next year, will allow for testing of fully autonomous vehicles on the road without needing a safety driver. While a necessary step towards a world where autonomous vehicles are projected to be commonplace within the next couple of decades, this is a big win for the AV community as the technology rapidly advances towards a state of full autonomy.

Since 2012, California has enacted regulations pertaining to self-driving vehicles and technology. The state plays a big role when it comes to regulating the technology, as it is where a lot of the AV research and development is occurring. Currently, there are 42 auto manufacturers and technology companies testing 285 self-driving cars throughout the state. Other states are expected to follow California’s lead, as they have with prior regulations of AVs.

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“My Maserati does one-eighty-five…”

Robert T. Lynch, PE, Sr. Collision Reconstruction Engineer ::::

We’ve all experienced it – you’re driving on the highway minding your own business, when a vehicle surprises you as it suddenly passes you at a high speed. Your first reaction (after your heart stops racing from the initial shock) is to look to see if there is a police officer around to pull the driver over for speeding. Your second thought is… wondering just how fast the vehicle was going. Well, wonder no more. I’m going to outline a simple approach for you, rooted in basic physics, that allows you to reasonably estimate the speed of the vehicle. I know some of you get apprehensive when you read the word “physics,” but don’t be afraid, as this process works for even the non-engineer.

Here’s what you do… as soon as the vehicle passes your vehicle, start counting to 10, as if you’re playing hide-and-go-seek, counting the numbers out as seconds. When you get to 10, note the location of the speeding vehicle ahead of you. Roadside poles or painted white dashed lines on the roadway provide good visual cues in order to determine how far ahead the speeding vehicle has traveled in the 10 seconds since it passed you. We’ll call this the “10-second location.” Now, without stopping your rhythm of counting, continue on to 11… 12… 13 seconds… until your vehicle has now reached the same location where the speeding vehicle was after 10 seconds. If it takes you 13 seconds to cover the same distance that it took the speeding vehicle to cover in 10 seconds, the speeding vehicle is going approximately 30% faster than you; 14 seconds equates to 40% faster and 15 seconds equates to 50% faster. As an example, if you are traveling at 60 miles per hour and you count to 14 seconds when you reach the “10-second location,” the speeding vehicle was traveling 40% faster, or at a speed of approximately 84 miles per hour!

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