There are a couple of associations that can ensure this. I was impressed by the “science-based” nature of one. And its support of another that has a well developed and internationally accepted accreditation program for investigators.
You might consider ensuring the expert you retain to investigate a traffic accident belongs to both groups, or your “generalist” forensic engineer retains one who does. (Ref. 1) Same as you would expect your engineering, medical, accounting, architectural, etc. expert to be registered with a recognized association.
CATAIR, the Canadian Association of Technical Accident Investigators and Reconstructionists is a support group of traffic accident investigators. It was formed to provide a professional and affordable way of meeting and sharing experiences and ideas.
CATAIR was incorporated in B.C. in 1984 and nationally in 1991. Ken Zwicker, Nova Scotia, current chairman for the Atlantic region, has served on the national executive since the group’s inception. Membership consists of police officers, former officers, and consultants of various stripes from across Canada, the U.S. and overseas.
I learned about this group when I conferred with a RCMP officer in connection with a slip and fall accident that I was investigating. He is a member of CATAIR. Members use some techniques similar to those I do when investigating accidents.
I have a general interest in how different groups investigate technical issues in their work, and how these techniques might be adapted to forensic engineering investigation - science in general, crime, medicine, etc., and now traffic accidents.
The Atlantic region meets quarterly and I started attending as a guest. The next meeting is this Friday in Dartmouth. There’s often a technical session and field day during the meeting. The association investigates test procedures and calibrates testing equipment during these sessions. Seeing this during my visits revealed the science-based nature of the group. Just what you want in your experts and their associations.
The meeting on Friday will:
- See a demonstration of the latest school bus safety features,
- Perform instrumented braking and acceleration tests,
- Measure the bus’s turning radius and rear wheel off-tracking, and,
- Examine sight lines/views obstructions.
The national annual general meeting was held in Dartmouth last fall. I attended a meet-and-greet and chatted with members from across Canada and the U.S. These are well experienced traffic accident investigators, and some have gone on to train people on how to prevent accidents. Examinations were held during the AGM for investigators who wanted to be accredited as meeting a minimum standard.
ACTAR, the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction, an international group formed in 1991, promotes recognition of minimum standards for traffic accident reconstruction. To that end the commission developed a multi-part accreditation examination. It’s one of the most comprehensive examinations I’ve seen outside of a university engineering program.
Applicants must meet certain standards of education and experience. They are then required to complete separate theoretical and practical examinations covering more than 10 topics for each. The topics focus on the math, physics and field testing and evaluation in traffic accident investigation. The examinations are taken in different levels and you progress through these to become accredited.
ACTAR’s examinations are so comprehensive that a mini industry has developed to prepare applicants to take the exams covering topics like the following:
- The nature of the examination
- Exam preparation
- Practice examinations
- Test examination
Accredited investigators have successfully completed the examination and are properly trained and experienced in accident reconstruction. Status in ACTAR is maintained after completing the initial examination by obtaining a minimum number of continuing education units over a five year period. The continuing education we must all embrace in our professions.
This is not to say that traffic accident investigators who have not done the examination are not qualified. I know of at least two that certainly are qualified. What it does do is demonstrate to the public and the justice system that your expert’s qualifications have been “peer reviewed”. This might be important in some cases.
- The “generalist” forensic engineer. Posted February 5, 2016