The Eaton County Sheriff's Office has a team of investigators whose specialty is the gathering of evidence for automobile crashes which have resulted in a fatality or near death. The team is made up of 15 members of the Department with various levels of training. When requested, two accident team members respond to a crash site. If there is not a team member working, they will be called in on their off-duty time to conduct the investigation. The crash site is generally secured by the initial responding officers. The investigators consider the crash site as a crime scene. Their responsibility is to identify roadway marks that are a part of the scene, collect all of the data regarding the scene, photograph and map the scene. Then, in the final sequence of the investigation, these individuals must interpret the data collected. They formulate an opinion as to how the crash occurred, which is substantiated by mathematical reconstruction.
The Accident Investigation Team is trained at Michigan State University. The University sponsors a course for police officers which consists of 15 separate schools. They range in length from one day to two weeks. The initial classes consist of basic identification of accident data at the scene, mapping, basic mathematical formulas, measuring, basic photography, roadway and vehicle evaluation.
Subsequent classes include perspective grid mapping of evidence, tire dynamics, lamp examination, commercial vehicle accidents and motorcycle crashes.
The accident reconstruction training is a 10-day school which covers various aspects of scientific crash reconstruction such as acceleration, time/distance analysis and speed determination using kinetic energy principles and conservation of linear momentum. A more advanced class beyond the reconstruction phase is measuring vehicle crush data for use with computer software utilized by our Department. This includes actual hands on measuring of damaged vehicles that can later be used for computer analysis. The computer software currently used by the Department is RECTEC or Reconstruction Technology. This software has a wide range of uses and the ability to compute typical crash reconstruction formulas.
The Accident Investigation Team may respond to as many as 20 fatality accidents in a year's time. Our Accident Team is often called upon by neighboring departments to assist in their investigations with fatality crashes.