[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                     March 13, 2009

Reconstruction work reveals 
details of traffic accidents

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

The Wisconsin State Patrol Technical Reconstruction Unit (TRU) offers support to law enforcement agencies investigating traffic accidents around the state. As the agency’s training institution, the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy at Fort McCoy often hosts the training, which is open to law enforcement agencies from throughout the state.

Photo: A damaged headlamp gives information to personnel attempting to reconstruct an accident scenario. (Contributed Photo)
A damaged headlamp gives information to personnel attempting to reconstruct an accident scenario. (Contributed Photo)

Sgt. Duane Meyers, the Wisconsin State Patrol supervisor of the TRU, said TRU personnel dedicate most of their time to reconstructing crashes and are recognized as the experts in the field.

The service provides a fair, impartial depiction of what happened during a traffic accident and potentially helps save the state a lot of money in litigation costs, he said.

"We investigate crashes and document and preserve evidence," Meyers said. "We can provide expert testimony at a trial and reconstruct an accident scene to help determine how an incident occurred."

Unit personnel can determine such factors as how fast a vehicle was going, where the vehicle was coming from, if brakes were used, etc., he said.

Other contributing factors may include drinking, speeding, inattentive driving because of cell phone use, etc.

Reconstruction is a scientific process that uses physics to solve a problem, he said. The tools of the investigation include scaled drawings or three-dimensional computer-program modeling, and using forensic mapping strategies and tactics.

Results of the investigation are used to prioritize funding, he said.

The first priority is to help determine accountability for accidents.

"It can help us determine why you have a high incidence of crashes in certain areas," Meyers said. "We can funnel federal monies to agencies to help fix these problems."

The second priority is to help reduce court costs, especially in cases that may lead to civil litigation or criminal prosecution.

"Without us, each side would have to put forth its own theory of what happened," he said. "The truth might never be known."

TRU personnel can act as expert witnesses to help establish accountability. Meyers said if this is known participants and their insurance companies are more inclined to settle matters quicker.

This can cut down costs for seating jurors, paying court employees, etc., he said.

Quick resolutions of cases can save taxpayer dollars.

The TRU also brings uniform procedures, training and equipment to an investigation to produce a professional product.

"Community members also win because they know motorists will be held accountable," he said. "This makes it more likely that drivers will face consequences for their actions, such as drunk driving, and are less likely to get away with an incident."

Meyers is certified by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Training and Standards Bureau. He teaches crash-related programs at the Wisconsin State Patrol Academy, area technical colleges and other educational facilities in the Midwest to other State Patrol personnel and other law enforcement personnel involved in accident reconstruction.



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