February 23, 2016 6:16 pm
Updated: February 24, 2016 9:06 am

The role of a collision reconstructionist

WATCH ABOVE: As RCMP stress the need for time to allow reconstructionists to determine what led to Monday’s fatal crash near Langham we take a closer look at the job itself. Wendy Winiewski outlines the intricacies involved.


SASKATOON – In the aftermath of a tragic crash on Highway 16 between Langham, Sask. and the Borden bridge, RCMP collision reconstructionists are piecing everything together to determine what led to the deadly scene. Coming up with a conclusion takes time.

It’s a job Const. Les Brauner with the Saskatoon Police Service has been at for more than five years. Brauner, along with his partner lead every investigation within Saskatoon.

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READ MORE: Woman, 2 boys killed following crash on Highway 16 west of Saskatoon

“Try to leave no stone unturned. we do the best job we can,” explained Brauner.

Collision analysis helps in determining criminal charges, driver education and can influence upgrades to road design such as a need for additional lighting.

“The easiest way to think of collision reconstruction is, we’re like the forensic identification for collision scenes.”

Officers complete several modules of training to properly assess crash scenes. They begin with a visual survey. Debris and tire tracks are marked and documented with evidence numbers. Distances are measured and data is gathered in a device similar to land survey equipment.

“Once we’re done that, we can bring that data from it and import it into a computer in a cad program and we can draw that scene.”

A drone is used to capture aerial imaging. The bird’s eye view, according to Brauner, can make a world of difference in drawing a conclusion about what happened.

A specific device measures surface friction which can vary greatly, explained Brauner.

“Grass, ice, snow covered, snow packed, gravel, asphalt, concrete, wet, dry … it all has a different friction value.”

Device used to measure surface friction.

File / Global News

Data is collected from the vehicle’s air bag control module.  “Some airbag control modules tell us if the seat belt was in use, how fast the vehicle was going, when the brake was applied, if the brake was applied.”

But, according to Brauner, this isn’t always reliable because vehicles that have had an airbag deploy previously can skew the data.

Airbag control module.

File / Global News

With all information gathered, the team returns to the office to draw a conclusion. “I trust my training and I trust the math,” said Brauner.

More complex scenes can take upwards of a month to conclude. Brauner leaves most investigations confident his interpretations of what happened, are accurate.

“Collision reconstruction is a puzzle and we get to put the pieces together,” he said. “It’s rewarding because you get to provide answers to a family.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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