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When there are accidents and crashes on our motorways, we see quite quickly how the 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. It helps find out what led to the crash.  Let’s imagine a crash on the M56 with a van and two cars involved on a wet weekend in December. Amongst the team on that cold rainy morning clearing the scene will be 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 looks like everyone will end up in court, then civil law firms also employ accident investigators to help to provide expert opinion.

There’s some specialist roles involved in accident investigation and it might be a career that could suit you. If we look a bit closer at how to become an Accident Investigator, you’ll find that you don’t need to go to university. There’s an apprenticeship standard called Forensic Collision Investigator. While it sounds like something out of Silent Witness, it’s more commonly known as an Accident Investigator or sometimes a Coding Collision investigator.

So what do these specialists do? Their purpose is to investigate road traffic accidents and help to understand how they occurred. They reconstruct the accident using scientific techniques and sophisticated instruments. They report on these in very formal ways and formal environments. Often their expert opinions can lead to prosecutions in court, financial penalties and pay outs for repairs.  However, the job also has an important aspect to it. Understanding how accidents happen helps to prevent further ones in the future. An accident investigator can save 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 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.

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.

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 whether they bounced at impact. Isaac Newton’s third law says ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. His first and second laws were equally impressive, so Accident Investigators use them a lot to reconstruct the events before the crash happened.

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.

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. You are likely to influence insurance claims, employment, disciplinary and tribunal processes. You’ll be a trained expert whose evidence will inform opinions and lead to a wide range of consequential actions.

You’ll emerge from your training with a vast amount of theoretical knowledge, practical experience and a valuable qualification. An 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. Not surprisingly, training for this takes 42 months if you go down the apprenticeship route. However, you’ll emerge with a degree qualification, without any of the student loan associated with a traditional university degree.

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

To apply for an apprenticeship to be an Accident Investigator, you’ll need a minimum of 2 A levels at grade C or above. One of these 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.