This last year I have been asked to assist in the investigations of three (3) different car crashes in which someone in the vehicle died.
In these crashes law enforcement quickly sought to charge the owner of the vehicle who was in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
Two of the owners denied being in operation at the time of the crash and unfortunately in the other one the owner of the vehicle was the fatality.
During Law Enforcement’s Investigation, not once did they do any type of forensic investigation or collection of evidence to prove their case.
To elaborate even further I see a lack of professional conduct, they only base their investigation on the fact that the owner of the vehicle, must be the driver of the vehicle at the time of the crash.
There was very little if any protection of the crime scenes. A vehicle crash with a fatal, should be conducted in the same manner as a homicide. A perimeter should be established and the crime scene secured to preserve evidence.
Every one of these crashes, once law enforcement is through with their on-scene investigation, the vehicle is loaded up with car parts that have littered the entire car, contaminating any evidence that is still in the vehicle.
If that’s not bad enough, the vehicle is released to the insurance company who immediacy they seek to destroy it and any evidence that may have still been inside. Even if they don’t dispose of the vehicle, it is usually stored outside exposed to the elements which destroys any evidence that may still have been in the vehicle.
Another problem is that officers fail to document pattern injuries as soon as possible. And in the case of vehicle crashes very seldom is the clothing of the occupants retained as evidence.
Here are how the investigations should have been conducted.
The first one was fairly simple, the vehicle rolled into a yard off a highway. Both the medical personal and the home owner, once interviewed by me, stated that while tending to two of the injured parties one kept saying how it was his fault, that he shouldn’t have been driving, and he was going to fast. The owner of the vehicle was asleep in the rear seat of the vehicle. She was the fatality in this crash.
Not only in car crashes I have found that law enforcement doesn’t conduct interviews of individuals in the area. This is commonly called a neighborhood canvas.
The officer making the canvas should list the name and addresses of individuals that he speaks with. He should also note the ones he wasn’t able to contact and someone should make an attempt at a later time.
The following is how a in depth investigation as to who was driving the vehicle should be conducted.
You need to keep in mind that it also requires an investigator that can look at the scene and recognize evidence and knows where it can be found.
To me this is exciting as an investigator working with a background of forensic evidence and to watch the degrees in which it can be used is amazing.
Using forensic evidence in your investigation leaves no doubt as to what happened, how it happened, and who was where in the vehicle when it crashed.
Someone with a trained eye can find evidence on the inside of the vehicle that may be vital in proving who was driving the vehicle.
Usually during the crash, the occupants will leave dents in the console areas, cracks from the head hitting the windshield. The dents can be identified as to the injuries on specific body parts. Commonly a leg or knee hitting the dash or lower console.
Sometimes there will be bruising on the person caused from the seat belt, radio knobs, shifter, door latches.
Hair can be found in the cracked windshield. Or in cases the windshield glass it will be imbedded in the scalp or other body parts.
There are two types of glass used in vehicles, Laminated glass which is used in the windshield and Tempered glass which is used in the side and rear windows. Tempered glass will cause wounds that appear to be diced, while the lamented will slice and be deeper in depth.
Often times a print can be found on the sole of the driver’s shoe of either the brake or gas pedal.
Both the drivers side and the passenger side air bags should be examined for hair, make up and blood. It is also possible that the air bag caused a pattern type of injury to the person sitting in front of it.
In conclusion, the ability to determine who was driving the vehicle will depend on the thoroughness of the investigation conducted, the investigators ability to identify evidence inside the vehicle and its occupants and proper interviews of all those involved and around the time of the crash.