BATAVIA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Collision Reconstruction Unit of the New York State Police (NYSP) handles approximately a hundred accidents per annum. A surge in collisions is typically observed during the summer, particularly throughout the period often referred to as the 100 deadliest days – from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
“Our responsibility lies in investigating the factors that contributed to the collision and deciphering the causes and circumstances of these accidents,” Trooper Thomas Rzepecki, an investigator with the unit, stated in an interview with the NEWS10 sister station News 4.
The combination of cutting-edge technology and expert training equips the collision reconstruction unit with the necessary resources to accurately piece together the sequence of events leading up to, during, and following an accident. Witness accounts play a significant role in recreating the narrative, yet the tangible evidence is crucial to accurately reconstructing the accident.
Investigator Rzepecki stated, “We place great emphasis on tangible evidence. By evaluating evidence such as tire marks on the road or any observable signs at the scene, we can apply the Laws of Motion to deduce how the collision transpired.”
The unit employs various tech tools, including drones, satellite imagery, and realistic scene reproductions, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the incident. Data extracted from vehicles’ black boxes are analyzed to determine the crash’s cause.
With rapid advancements in vehicle technology, the unit continually updates its software, measurement tools, and other tech resources. This aids in developing an explicit account of the events inside the vehicles moments prior to the crash, potentially enhancing road safety by preventing future accidents.
“When we arrive at a scene, we start by capturing digital photographs and then utilize the global navigation satellite system. It’s akin to a large-scale pencil sketch of the scene,” said Trooper Nicholas Overturf, another investigator in the unit. “Through our reconstruction efforts, we identify the factors contributing to the accident, analyze this data, and identify trends – such as hazardous roads or excessive speeds.”
The unit acknowledges the importance of keeping pace with technological advancements to maintain its efficiency, especially given the fast-paced development in vehicle technology.
Extensive training, including live accident simulations, helps investigators understand the roles of speed, acceleration, and other forces in crashes.
“You understand what kind of data you’re looking for: the potential damage to a vehicle, the likely injuries to an occupant, pedestrian, or motorcyclist, for instance. You can anticipate the probable damage based on the speeds we’ve observed live,” said Investigator Overturf. “We also employ airbag control modules during our investigations to measure the forces exerted on the vehicle, its speeds, and dynamics.”
The summer season often leads to an uptick in fatal crashes, predominantly between late May and September, as Trooper James O’Callaghan pointed out. Various factors contribute to this, including speeding, distractions, impaired driving, a surge in motorcyclists, and new drivers on the roads.
Trooper O’Callaghan noted, “We’re witnessing a significant increase in collisions, primarily due to speeding and distracted driving. With sunny weather, people tend to drive at higher speeds.”
This unit’s purpose is to provide answers to complex questions, offering a sense of closure during the most challenging times.
“Each call we receive to attend to a crash scene marks a tragedy for someone,” Investigator Rzepecki expressed. “A crash signifies a loved one, a close friend, or a family member isn’t coming home. Our mission is to uncover what transpired and why it did, and to provide a voice for those who no longer can.”
The New York State Police have reported a rising trend in fatal crashes. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day of 2022, Troop A attended to 10 fatal crashes in Western New York, with a total of 96 fatal crashes dealt with by the entire NYSP agency. As of 2023, Troop A has responded to four fatal crashes, and the entire agency has undertaken 66 investigations statewide, which is a notable increase from previous years.
The State Police have urged drivers to avoid using their phones while driving, emphasizing that pleasant weather doesn’t imply higher speed limits. They highlighted that speed is the most significant factor in severe collisions, particularly during bright, summer weather.
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