Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision Reconstruction / Transportation Engineer
Multi-vehicle collisions, sometimes involving dozens of vehicles, typically occur during periods of adverse weather conditions such as snow, ice, and/or fog (some may recall the recent 20+ vehicle collision in Pennsylvania). When these collisions occur on high-speed, limited-access highways, there can be severe consequences as a result of the multiple impacts (at the time of this writing it has been reported that there were 2 fatalities and over 35 people sent to the hospital as a result of the aforementioned pile-up in Pennsylvania). However, from a reconstruction standpoint, with so many vehicles involved, how does one define the dynamics of the collision?
Just like eating an elephant, these reconstructions are done ‘one bite at a time!’ What makes the reconstruction of multi-vehicle collisions different than a classic two-vehicle collision is simply the number of ‘bites it takes’ (here, vehicles involved) and the availability/quality of the physical evidence left as a result of the collision. Ideally, enough data is available which allows the reconstruction engineer to break down the multi-vehicle collision into clusters. This way, instead of attempting to ‘swallow the elephant whole,’ reconstruction is broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces of the overall incident. Detailing the physics of these more manageable events, the dynamics of the overall collision oftentimes come into view.
Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., President of DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.