A Useful Task for Drones: Investigating Car Accidents

Here in Southern California, we know how just one car crash, even a fender bender, can make our freeways a total mess, rush hour or not. And if it is, sadly, a crash with multiple cars and injuries, the time it takes to obtain evidence and clear it becomes exponentially longer.

But what if a drone, like the one your annoying neighbor keeps playing with, could help? A growing number of police agencies throughout the country are starting to rely on drones to take aerial photographs that will help investigators with the crash, and allow them to clear the scene more quickly. The sheriff’s office in Tazewell County, Illinios used this drone technology to help them investigate a multi-vehicle crash that killed an elderly woman in July.

“It’s about a hundred times more detailed than what we could do with people taking the measurements,” explained Chief Deputy Jeff Lower when asked about using drones for this purpose. “And it means that there’s much less time for the road to be closed and traffic to be backed up.”

Believe it or not, crash scene techniques have not kept up with the modern age, with police investigators using chalk marks, tape measures, and roller-wheels to record measurements and skid marks to help them piece the puzzle of the incident together. Some have added a laser scanning tool to their arsenal, but even so, taking measurements with those tools can take hours. During that time, the police need to close lanes, or close the road altogether, putting emergency responders and crash investigators at risk of being hit by passing traffic.

Now, drones with cameras or Go-Pro-style video cameras are sent up to take high-resolution photos that are analyzed by computer software, creating three-dimensional models that piece everything together for the investigators.

Don’t worry—these drones are not surveilling civilians nor collecting information, but used only for the purpose of reconstructing the crash. But it does help police agencies save time and money, and helps clear roads quicker, both of which are beneficial to the insurance carrier, and to the customer.

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