Motorway crashes: Finding out what happened


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When there are accidents and crashes on our motorways, we see quickly how our emergency services respond, but have you ever wondered what happens next? After every serious accident there is an investigation to learn more about how further accidents can be avoided and to determine all the factors that led to the crash. Amongst the team on that cold rainy morning clearing the scene will have been an Accident investigator. They may have been part of the Police Team or possibly one of the fleet operators for the company who owned the van. Later other accident investigators may be involved as the insurance companies begin to sort out liability. If the consequences of an accident get litigious then civil law firms also employ accident investigators to help to provide expert opinion.

In this month’s newsletter we begin to look at some of the more specialist roles that the New Apprenticeship Standards open up for enthusiastic people across Liverpool looking for a career with a difference. We start with Forensic Collision Investigator, more commonly known as an Accident Investigator or sometimes a Coding Collision investigator.

So what do these specialists do and what do you need to become one? Their purpose is to investigate road traffic accidents and help to understand how they occurred by reconstructing them using scientific techniques and sophisticated instruments. They report on these in very formal ways and formal environments as often their expert opinions can lead to prosecutions in court and financial penalties and pay outs for repairs. The role also has an important aspect to it. Understanding how accidents happen help to prevent further ones in the future. An accident investigator can saves lives literally.

If you talk to a Traffic Police Officer they can tell you about the road traffic accidents they’ve attended. They are often tough to listen to, so you need to have a strong constitution and be over 18 to embark on an Apprenticeship in this profession. You’ll also be inquisitive as you’ll need to piece together the evidence you collect to construct a theory of what happened. Not surprisingly this specialist apprenticeship is 42 months, so you’ll emerge with a degree qualification, without any of the student loan associated with a traditional University degree. Accident Investigators are scientists as they use a number of technologies to determine what went on. They’ll calculate speeds vehicles are travelling at, how hard they hit each other and did they bounce at impact. Isaac Newton’s third law says ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. His first and second were equally impressive, so Accident Investigators use these principles a lot to reconstruct the events before a crash happens. Unsurprisingly you’ll need a minimum of 2 A levels at grade C or above one of which should be in maths or a science. Your GCSEs should also look suitably impressive with 5 at grade 4 or above including maths and english.

An Accident Investigator can find themselves in Courts a lot more than the average person. They are regularly called to Criminal, Civil and Coroners courts to give evidence in cases sorting out a wide range of after crash issues from insurance claims to employment, disciplinary and tribunal processes. You are a trained expert whose evidence will inform opinions and lead to a wide range of consequential actions.

On the front line at the scene you will be the person who identifies, preserves and records the evidence from the scene of an accident. You’ll survey the scene, photograph and video the scene, recreate it through scale plans and other visual representations. Importantly, you’ll conduct tests and forensic examinations that will help to build a reconstruction of the accident. It also involves reviewing witness evidence and testing that against the physical evidence you’ve gathered to see if it stacks up.

Once you’ve gathered and analysed all the evidence you’ll need to report on it. This includes producing briefing notes and technical and expert witness reports. These are often used in criminal cases where you will present your findings at hearings. Your training will include the legislative procedures you’ll need to negotiate the criminal courtroom proceedings.

You’ll emerge from your apprenticeship with a vast amount of theoretical knowledge, practical experience and a valuable qualification. The Apprenticeship brings you a BSc in Forensic Road Collision Investigation and professional recognition by the Institute Of Traffic Accident Investigators and Chartered Society of Forensic Science.

What sort of person makes a good Accident Investigator? They combine a range of analytical interests with good personal skills. Often they can be measuring crush damage to a vehicle and then the next needing to be emotionally astute when talking to witnesses sensitively in a stressful situation. If you can keep your head in stressful situations this could be the apprenticeship for you.