Junking Cars to Learn How They Crash

Accident investigators learn tricks of trade

By Andrew Tanielian
|  Thursday, May 10, 2012  |  Updated 8:05 PM CDT
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Engineers, scientists and accident investigators crashed junk cars at Texas Motor Speedway to learn how to better reconstruct accidents.

Andrew Tanielian, Fort Worth

Engineers, scientists and accident investigators crashed junk cars at Texas Motor Speedway to learn how to better reconstruct accidents.

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To learn how to reconstruct traffic crashes after the fact, you have to actually see one.

Engineers, scientists and crash investigators junked four vehicles during two controlled crashes on Thursday.

The Texas Association of Accident Reconstruction Specialists and the University of Tulsa brought the group together. They studied techniques and tested some new software that make it easier for investigators to make sense of a crash they could not see in person.

"It's pretty cool," said Terry Day, who works for Engineering Dynamics Corp. "If you're into physics and math and you like puzzles, it just doesn't get any better."

The company creates software that projects how the accident might have happened once variables such as speed and weight are entered.

Crash investigator Nigel McDonald traveled to North Texas from his home in Australia because controlled simulations are rare.

"These sorts of crash tests and the experience we're gaining from them are invaluable in being able to prove that what we can apply in theory from the science reflects [and] what actually happens out there on the roads," he said.

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