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LESSON 5.

4
TRAFFIC ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION
Concept: (Most of these were taken from the old PC-HPG Traffic Investigation
Manual)
Traffic Accident Investigation. Generally, to know what question to ask and
what to look for, you must have some fundamental bearing on accidents and their
causes. When you speak of traffic accident, everybody knows what you mean
SOMETHING WENT WRONG on the highway, either a wrecked car, somebody is
injured or possibly killed.
A. What Traffic Accident Investigation Determines? It aims to know the five (5)
Ws and one (1) H of the incident:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

WHAT happened?
WHO and WHAT was involved?
WHERE did it happen?
WHY did it happen?
HOW did the accident occur?
WHEN did the accident happen?

B. Purposes of Traffic Accident Investigation. There are four (4) main reasons,
depending on who does the investigation:
1. Everyone involved is curious about the causes and circumstances of the
accident.
2. For the police to find out whether there is enough evidence of law violation
in the accident.
3. Claims attorneys and adjusters want to determine negligence on the part of
the drivers involved in the accident so that damage claims can be properly
adjusted
4. Officials and others want specific information about accidents to know how to
prevent future accidents.
C. Common Words and Phrases Used in Traffic Accident Investigation. The
following words and phrases with their corresponding meaning are often used in
the process:
1. Accident. It is that occurrence in a sequence of events which usually
produces unintended injury, death, or property damage.
2. Traffic Accident. An accident involving travel transportation on a traffic way.
3. Motor Vehicle Accident. Events resulting in unintended injury or property
damage attributable directly or indirectly to the action of a motor vehicle or its
loads. Included are:

a.
b.
c.
d.
e.

Accidental injury from inhalation of exhaust gas;


Fires;
Explosion;
Discharge of firearm within the motor vehicle while in motion;
Collision between a motor vehicle and a railroad train or street car on
stationary rails or tracks; and
f. Failure of any part of the motor vehicle while the vehicle is in motion.
Excluded are:
a. Collision of a motor vehicle with an aircraft or water-craft in motion;
b. Injury or damage due to cataclysms (flood or sudden physical change of
the earth surface); and
c. Injury or damage while the motor vehicle is not under its power is being
loaded on or unloaded from another conveyance.
4. Motor Vehicle. Every device which is self-propelled and every vehicle which
is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but not
operated upon rails.
5. Key Event. An event on the road which characterizes the manner of
occurrence of a motor vehicle traffic accident.
6. Debris. The scattered broken parts of vehicles, rubbish, dust and other
materials left at the scene of the accident caused by a collision.
7. Skid Marks. These are marks left on the roadway by tires which are not free
to rotate, usually because brakes are applied strong and the wheels locked.
8. Traffic Unit. Any person using a traffic way for travel, parking or other
purposes as a pedestrian or driver, including any vehicle, or animal which he
is using. It applies not only to motor vehicles but also to:
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.

Pedestrians;
Cyclists;
Street cars;
Horse-drawn (animal-drawn) vehicles;
Farm tractors; and
Other road users in almost any combination Example: A traffic accident
could involve a cyclist and a pedestrian.

9. Hazards. A hazard is generated when a critical space-motion relationships


between a traffic unit and another object develops due to the movement of
either or both. Example: A curve in the path is a hazard. Another traffic unit in
the path is also a hazard.

10. Safe Speed. The speed adjusted to the potential or possible hazards or the
road and traffic situation ahead. Safe speed on the road is determined by the
road rather than the particular driver of a vehicle. Example: A curve ahead is a
hazard and a safe speed for it is a speed at which it can be taken comfortably.
11. Strategy. It is the adjusting of speed, position on the road, and direction of
motion, giving signals of intent to turn or slow down, or any other action in
situations involving potential hazards.
12. Tactic. Any action taken by the traffic unit to avoid hazardous situations like
steering, braking, or accelerating to avoid collision or other accident.
13. Impact. The striking of one body against another or a collision of a motor
vehicle with another motor vehicle.
14. Contact Damage. Damage to a vehicle resulting from direct pressure of
some foreign object in a collision or roll over. It is usually indicated by
striations, rub-off of material or puncture.
15. Factor. Any circumstance contributing to a result without which the result
could not have occurred or it is an element necessary to produce the result,
but not by itself sufficient.
16. Primary Cause. A misnomer loosely applied to the most obvious or easily
explained factor in the cause of an accident or the most easily modified
condition factor.
17. Cause. The combination of simultaneous and sequential factors without any
one of which result could not have occurred.
18. Attribute. Any inherent characteristics of a road, a vehicle, or a person that
affects the probability of a traffic accident.
19. Modifier. A circumstance that alters an attribute permanently or temporarily.
D. Kinds of Traffic Accidents. In the investigation of traffic accidents, it is
imperative for the traffic investigator to know the kinds on accident occurred in
order to map out the necessary activities to be done when responding and
investigating.
1. Non-Motor Vehicle Traffic Accident. Refers to any accident occurring on a
traffic way involving persons using the traffic way or travel or transportation,
but not involving a motor vehicle in motion. Example: pedestrian and cyclist in
a traffic way.

2. Motor Vehicle Non-Traffic Accident. Any motor vehicle accident which


occurs entirely in any place other than a traffic way. Example: accident on a
private driveway.
3. Motor Vehicle Traffic Accident. Any motor vehicle accident occurring on a
traffic way. Example: collision between automobiles on a highway.
E. Classification of Motor Vehicle Traffic Accident According to Key Event.
1. Running off road. This is usually characterized by a motor vehicle falling on
the roadside or on a cliff along mountainous roads.
2. Non-collision on road. This does not involve any collision, an example of
which is overturning.
3. Collision on road. On the other hand, this type of accident includes all forms
of accident as long as there is a collision. Examples of this are motor vehicle
colliding with:
a. Pedestrian may be walking, running or standing on a roadway.
b. Other motor vehicle on traffic may be head on, head and rear, sides
opposite direction, sides the same direction, head and side collision, etc.
c. Parked motor vehicle the form of collision may be similar to a moving
vehicle like head on collision, however, one is parked anywhere on a
roadway.
d. Railroad train this type of collision usually occurs along railroad
crossings.
e. Bicycle in this form of collision, it is either the motor vehicle or the
bicyclists who initiated the collision.
f. Fixed object traffic islands, pedestrian barriers, electric post.
g. Other objects street cars, ice cream vendor, etc.
F. Classification of Accidents According to Severity.
1. Property Damage Accident. There is no fatal or injury to any person but only
damage to the motor vehicle or to other property including injury to animals.
2. Slight. Only slight damages to properties.
3. Non-Fatal Injury Accident. This results in injuries other than fatal to one or
more persons.
4. Less Serious. Only less serious injuries to persons.
5. Serious. This causes serious injuries to persons.
6. Fatal. This results in death to one or more persons.

G. Causes of Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents. Traffic accidents occur due to


varying circumstances and only after thorough investigation, when liability and
responsibility can be ascertained. Notwithstanding that no driver will readily
accept that he initiated the accident. With these, the traffic investigator is faced
with a gargantuan task of bringing out the truth on who should be held
responsible for the unusual incident. His primary concern will be to determine
how and why the accident happened.
1. Simultaneous Factors
a. Road conditions.
b. Drivers attitude or behavior.
c. Weather condition.
2. Sequential Factors
a. Speed is greater or less than safe.
b. Defective vehicle (vehicle malfunction).
3. Operational Factors
a. Road hazards.
b. Drivers non-compliance to traffic laws, rules and regulations.
4. Perception Factors
a. Drivers inability to react promptly to a situation.
b. Drivers faulty action to escape collision course.
When all possible causes of an accident have been grouped together by an
investigating officer and he believes the accident would not have occurred if any
one of these causes did not exist, then the investigator may have identified the
combination of factors causing the accident.
On-the-scene reconstruction of a traffic accident relates accident causation to
direct causes for summary police action and to direct, mediate and early causes
for ongoing studies of high-frequency accident locations and future research and
analysis.
H. Chain of Events in a Vehicular Accident. For the purpose of reporting, traffic
accident may usually be described well enough as a single occurrence but when
accident is investigated, attention is directed to particular stages of the
occurrence. In fact, an accident may be usually defined as a series of an
expected events leading to damage or injury. One event usually leads to another
so that the series can be spoken of as a chain of events. These events are
described and illustrated below:

1. Perception of Hazard. It is seeing, feeling, or hearing and understanding the


usual or unexpected movement or condition that could be taken as sign of the
accident about to happen.
2. Start of evasive action. It is the first action taken by a traffic unit to escape
from a collision course or otherwise avoid a hazard.
3. Initial Contact. The first accidental touching of an object collision course or
otherwise avoids a hazard.
4. Maximum Engagement. It is greatest collapse or overlap in a collision. The
force between the traffic unit and the object collided with are greatest at
maximum engagement.
5. Disengagement. It is the separation of a traffic unit in motion from an object
with which it has collided. The force between the object ceases at this time.
6. Stopping. This is when the traffic unit/s involved come to rest. It usually
stabilizes the accident situation.
7. Injury. It is receiving bodily harm. This event does not necessary occur after
the accident but within any of the chain of events. It may also happen right
after the evasive action taken by the drivers involved or during the initial
contact.
8. Other events that may occur during an accident.
a. Point of Possible Perception. The place and time of which the hazard
could have been perceived by a normal person. It precedes actual
perception and is the beginning of perception delay
b. Point of no Escape. It is that place and time after or beyond which the
accident cannot be prevented by the traffic unit under consideration.
c. Perception Delay. The time from the point of possible perception to actual
perception.
d. Final Position. It is the place and time when objects involved in an accident
finally come to rest without application of power.
I. Who Conducts the Traffic Accident Investigation? In some instances, the
police traffic officers assigned in the field or highways upon learning of an
accident usually responds and conduct initial inquiries. However, police stations
normally have designated traffic accident investigators.
In cases of Major Traffic Accidents such as those that attract national media
attention or those that involve numerous victims, the local traffic investigator shall

immediately inform the nearest PNP Highway Patrol Group Office which shall
then take the lead in the investigation under the Special Investigation Task
Group (SITG) which shall be activated to manage the case. (PNP Field Manual
on Investigation of Crimes of Violence and Other Crimes, 2011)
When the proper crime scene processing is necessary, the traffic investigators
may also ask the assistance of the Scene of the Crime Operation Team (SOCO
Team).
J. Five (5) Levels of Activity in Accident Investigation. In the investigation of
traffic accidents, the police are guided by the following stages or levels of
investigation:
1. Reporting. This stage involves basic data collection to identify and classify a
motor vehicle, traffic and persons, property and planned movements involved.
2. At-Scene Investigation. This level involves all action taken by the
investigator at the scene of the crime or accident.
3. Technical Preparation. This involves delayed traffic accident data collection
and organization for study and interpretation.
4. Professional Reconstruction. This involves efforts to determine from
whatever information is available, how the accident happened.
5. Cause Analysis. This last level usually involves final analysis on the causes
of accident which are bases for the prevention of similar accident.
K. Steps Taken by the Police during Traffic Accident Investigation. Like in any
other forms of police investigations, the traffic investigators follow chronological
steps in responding and investigating traffic-related accidents to ensure gathering
if thorough information.
1. Step One. Upon Learning of the Accident.
a. Ask first: When did the accident happen?; Exactly where was it?; How bad
was it?; Did you see the accident happened?; and Where can you be
reached?
b. Decide whether to go to the scene: Will scene have been cleared by the
time of arrival?; Is it in the investigators area?; and Should headquarters
be informed or consulted?
c. Then find out, if necessary: Is traffic blocked?; Has ambulance been
called?; Has wrencher been called?; and Was fire apparatus called?
2. Step Two. Start for the Scene. With two-way radio, you can do two things
while on the way.

a. Choose Best Approach. Consider: Time; possible traffic jams; possible


route of driver involved; and probable situation at scene.
b. Drive Safely. Get there safely; if you get involved in accident yourself, then
other units must be used.
c. Be Alert for Cars Leaving the Scene: As possible witnesses or hit and run
drivers; and record registration numbers of any likely looking vehicles.
d. Get Equipment Ready for Use. So far as practical on the way.
e. Look for Conditions confronting a driver approaching Scene: Low visibility
view obstructions; and traffic control devices.
f. Note Hazards to approaching Traffic: Drop helper to direct traffic if
necessary; and look for physical evidence. Have it guarded until it can be
examined, collected or located.
3. Step Three. Upon Arrival at the Scene.
a. Select parking place carefully: Is it safe?; Will it block traffic?; and Can
headlight illuminate scene?
b. Care for injured: Stop arterial bleeding; call for help if necessary; help
injured from cars safely; protect injured from exposure; and ask for
emergency assistance from bystanders from anywhere.
c. Look over bystanders and others: Look for drivers; look for possible
witnesses; look for volunteers who will help you; and get them under
control.
d. Have Emergencies Under Control: Have spilled gasoline guarded; look for
fire and electrical hazards; look for traffic hazards; put out flares; ask
helper to direct traffic; keep bystanders off roadway; and request help from
headquarters if needed.
e. Locate drivers: Consider possibility of hit and run accident; and need to
alert headquarters.
f. Measure location of short lived evidences.
g. Arrange for clearing roadway.
h. Delay removal of vehicles except to aid injured.
4. Step Four. When Emergency is Under Control.
a. Preliminary questioning of drivers: Who was driving each vehicle?; Note
unpremeditated statement; and look for signs of nervousness, confusion
and intoxication.
b. Gather clues for identifying hit and run cars: Question other witnesses
especially bystanders in hurry to go; and if needed, get signed statement
at once from why who may be hard to find later.
c. Examine drivers conditions: Get specimen for chemical test; and question
about trip plan for possible fatigue.
d. Question drivers carefully: Check license and record data from it; verify
and identify address; check registration and record data; verify
ownership[ and correct address; and Get step by step account of what
driver saw and did.

e. Position and condition of Vehicles: Note lights and light switches; note
gear position and tires; mark position of vehicles if it must be removed;
and look for unusual thing inside the vehicles.
f. Form preliminary opinion as to how accident occurs.
g. Photography: Photograph skid mark and location of vehicles; and mark
skid mark location for later measurement.
h. Record place to which injured persons or damage vehicles were or will be
taken.
5. Step Five. After Getting Short-live Evidence.
a. Get additional evidence: Make test skids; decide whether proof of violation
is sufficient for arrest; if so, make arrest or issue citation; get additional
formal statements, from witnesses remaining at the scene; and have road
clear if traffic is obstructed.
b. Suggestion to drivers, if necessary: How much accidents can be avoided
in the future; and tell drivers what reports they must make and dismiss
them.
c. Approach the scene by path of each traffic unit involved. Look for: View
obstructions; traffic control devices, etc.; probable points of perception;
and road surface conditions.
d. Complete examinations of vehicles.
e. Locate key event of accident.
f. Make additional photographs of: Vehicle damage; view obstruction;
pavements conditions; and control devices, and general view, etc.
g. Establish exact location of accident and record it.
h. Measure for scale diagram if location is hard to reach.
i. Review notes of evidence or testimony: Get additional facts at scene; and
identify all notes with places and time.
j. Clean up location or arrange to have it done.
k. Report to headquarters by radio or telephone. Nowadays, the cellular
phone is a ready alternative in reporting to police headquarter.
6. Step Six. After Leaving the Scene:
a. Get medical report on injured persons from doctor or hospital.
b. Question drivers or witnesses: At hospital or home if not adequately
questioned; and take needed additional statements.
c. Notify: Relatives of dead or injured; and/or Owner of vehicles.
d. Have specimens analyzed if were taken for chemical or laboratory test.
e. Have photograph developed; get prints if needed for report.
f. Complete the report of the accident: Have copies made if necessary; file
report and copies; and complete factual data on investigation report if not
completed at scene.
g. Decide whether analysis of accident is warranted by the time available for
making it.

h. Reconstruction of the accident: Estimate speeds of vehicles involved; draw


scale diagram; analyze angle of collision; get technical help if necessary;
and summarize opinions.
i. Present case summary to a lawyer.
j. Complete report or investigation.
k. Submit to superior for approval.
l. Inform other Agencies or departments of any condition at the scene which
needs attention for safety.
7. Step Seven. If Case Goes to Court:
a. Find out what the prosecutor wants further to develop evidence.
b. Return to the scene if necessary for the following: Additional photographs
of general scene and long-lived evidence; measure for scale diagram for
use in court; and Locate additional witnesses and review their testimony.
c. Locate also, if necessary: Relatives and friends who confirm activities
before the accident; technicians who developed pictures, made chemical
tests, etc.; and expert who can help.
d. Have enlargement made of any photo needed in court.
e. Enlarge scale diagram made for court use.
f. Pre-trial conference with prosecution witnesses to review testimony.
g. Ensure that subpoenas are issued.
h. Testify in court.
i. Organize papers and file permanently, if necessary, for future reference.
j. Ensure that the disposition of case is recorded in drivers record and other
reports.
L. The Traffic Accident Report. In the preparation of the traffic accident
investigation report, the officer of the case must consider the following:
1. Uniform traffic Accident Reporting System.
2. Preparation of Traffic Accident Report:
a. By a competent, bonafide traffic accident investigator.
b. Requirements for an investigator in the submission of report such as
evidence gathered, diagrams, sketches as well as sworn statements of
witnesses.
c. Traffic Accident Investigation Report will be accomplished in five (5) copies
for: the Court or Prosecutors Office; TRAFCOM (TMG) or Traffic Division;
the Investigator; the Insurance company of Party-involved #1 and the
Insurance Co. of Party-involved #2.