How does accident investigation manage to reconstruct and “explain” an accident?

In most vehicle accidents there are usually 3 sides to the story – the stories from the one driver, the other driver and then the truth! Accident investigators should be well trained and experienced to reconstruct accidents and to help in the efforts to find the truth.

Sometimes the truth is not merely needed to establish and calculate damages and to decide on which party is responsible for which percentage of the damage – but also to provide closure for bereaved relatives.

Earlier this week the Arrive Alive website received an email from such a bereaved parent:

Request for Assistance

“Hi … My 17 yr old son was killed in a motor bike accident in Oct 2009. The driver of the car claims he did not see my son when turning in front of him. I spoke to the driver at the scene and he had been drinking but the Police did not follow procedure and forgot to test for alcohol. I cannot find any witness to the accident. I am looking for a Motor bike accident expert to see if by looking at photos of the scene and the bike I can try piece together what happened.”


The process of accident investigation is never simple –but rather a methodological process of close investigation and attention to the finest of detail. We referred the request for assistance to accident Investigator Stan Bezuidenhout, and believe that sharing his response will provide insight to our readers on the process of accident investigation:

“Please note that – from the information I received – it seems you need a collision homicide reconstructionist that specializes in human perception-reaction (COULD the driver of the other vehicle have seen the motorcycle), more than a “motorcycle expert.”

With experience at thousands of scenes involving everything from pedestrians and motorcycles through trucks, buses, trains and even earth-moving equipment, this is right up my alley – and I am based up in Gauteng.

You can read more about me/us at, if you prefer.

We would hate to disappoint, but – as an expert – I cannot simply “look at photographs and tell you what happened.” We work to a much higher degree of expertise than that.

But not all hope is lost… Please note that I would prefer to consult with your family before offering our services, but here are the things I will need and how we would work in such a matter:

1.    We would need to visit the scene and take proper measurements (using laser measuring equipment, if needed). Because of the involvement of a motorcycle, things like point of impact, vault and position of rest are vital and should be recorded to a very high degree if accuracy before any science (reconstruction) can be applied to any level of professionalism.

2.    We would prefer to examine the motorcycle (if it is still available) in order to see the damages and to take some measurements (which will assist with calculations) and to determine the direction of applied forces (PDOF, or Principle Direction of Force).

3.    We would also prefer to have access to any and/or all available versions – we might need co-operation from the SAPS on this.

4.    If at all possible, we would need to examine the damage to the other vehicle, or acquire copies of the SAPS or assessor’s photographs in order to “match damage” and measure “crush.”

5.    Only then would be in a position to effect a so-called reconstruction.

Please feel free to contact be directly if you would like to discuss this any further.

Yours in need,

Stan Bezuidenhout

Also view for more on accident investigation:

Accident Investigation and Road Safety

Choose and Accident Investigator

Best photos at an accident scene

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