Blue Line

Automotive Forensics

April 29, 2016  By Tom Rataj

400 words – MR

Automotive forensics

by Tom Rataj

Driver error is the most common cause of motor vehicle collisions, although many other factors can also contribute to causes and outcomes.

Environmental, mechanical, electrical and electronic issues may also play a role in the cause or outcome, as can vehicle modifications of all sorts, whether done by home-mechanics or professional, and unrepaired faults subject to manufacturer recalls.

Police mechanics and other specialists thoroughly examine vehicles involved in serious injury collisions and fatalities. The vehicles of drivers who allege brake or other mechanical failure are also closely examined, of course.

The relentless push towards increased sophistication in all vehicles, much of it driven by complex computer controlled electronics, makes these expert examinations far more complex than ever.

Challenges continue to grow because of a strong market for vehicle modifications ranging from mechanical and electrical/electronic components and performance enhancing equipment such as chipped or reprogrammed electronic control modules (AKA car computers).

Virtually every new car is equipped with an event data recorder (EDR), which records a wide variety of data from all major systems. The EDR typically records speed, steering angle, brake application, seatbelt use and all sorts of other parameters. This data has been used to successfully prosecute drivers in many jurisdictions.

This evidentiary value means a proper expert examination of crashed vehicles, especially when serious injuries or fatalities resulted, should also include the retrieval and analysis of EDR data. This is especially crucial when a police vehicle is involved in a crash because of potential, perceived or suspected conflicts of interest in these days of hyper vigilant reviews of police actions.

Commercial services specializing in complete mechanical, electronic and data examinations are beginning to open. They provide complete investigative solutions from start to finish, including expert testimony in court to back up their findings.

The chief investigator of one recently launched Toronto company, Automotive Forensic Investigative Services (AFIS), is Nick Delov, a mechanic with 40 years of automotive industry experience. Delov began his career as a mechanic with the Toronto Police Service and left t28 years later as manager of shop operations.

He personally undertook and oversaw numerous expert examinations of crashed vehicles while with the TPS and is a recognized expert court witness.

Delov does complete expert examinations at his east end Toronto garage, including extracting and interpreting data and its relationship to his physical vehicle examinations.

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