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Accident Investigations

October 22, 2007

Last March an Ohio school bus carrying a Bluffton University baseball team went off an overpass on Interstate 85-75. Early that morning the bus carrying the players was traveling in the left HOV lane when it went southbound up a left side exit ramp, failed to stop and went over the overpass. Eight students, the driver and his wife were killed. Twenty-eight other passengers were injured. This week relatives of the deceased and some of the injured have filed notice of claims with the State of Georgia.

Early on in the investigations many believed the bus driver mistook the exit ramp for the left hand HOV lane. The National Transportation Safety Board (the NTSB) is investigating. The NTSB’s report will not be issued until spring 2008

The NTSB is a federal agency charged with maintaining safety standards for air, highway, waters and railways. The NTSB investigates major highway accidents such as this bus accident. Following its investigation, the NTSB will ssue a narrative report determining the probable cause of the accident and making safety recommendations for the future.

Most accident investigations usually involve some form of accident reconstruction. Analysts go to the accident scene where they extract clues that provide some pre-accident information about the collision. A good investigation will determine speed of the vehicles, braking distances, points of impact, reaction distances, line of sight, driver reactions, and potential system failures. This level of investigation is usually not carried out by police officers arriving on the scene.

In the case of a major highway accident involving federal highways or in collision with a long haul carrier, it is good idea to hire an accident engineer to assess the accident and form conclusions. Some accident reconstruction engineers utilize computer graphics to simulate the movement of the vehicle prior to and at the point of collision. This analysis relies upon simple mechanical engineering. Being able to visit the scene within days of the accident also allows the investigator to obtain crucial evidence that may dissipate over time – evidence such as skid marks, yaw marks, or overhanging tree growth. Proper scene photography is also important.

Don’t delay when you are involved in a major accident. Contact an attorney as soon as possible and ask about employing an accident reconstruction expert to preserver evidence at the scene.