When it comes to the roads, the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) makes it their priority to figure out what exactly led to a crash to help drivers avoid becoming another statistic.
"We don't believe in accidents, accidents imply nobody did anything did wrong. A crash happened because something went wrong and it's our job to figure out what it is," said Sgt. Maureen Valez of THP's CIRT team.
The team uses their findings to teach other highway patrol units across the country how to more efficiently respond to a crash.
CIRT has four teams across the state.
Lt. Andy Shelton covers CIRT's Middle Tennessee region.
"We look at our job and the CIRT team as being the opportunity to answer the questions that people can't answer for themselves," said Lt. Shelton.
Lt. Justin Boyd covers the CIRT's East bureau.
He said the efforts to finding those answers begins right after a crash occurs.
"We arrive, speak to the investigators on scene, and then we start looking at the crash scene and going through photographing, marking, and then we'll bring out equipment that you see around me to document or create a scaled diagram, also known as forensic mapping," said Lt. Boyd.
The state-of-the-art tools include a GPS Rover, which helps them recreate every little detail of the crash site.
"This allows us to acquire highly accurate measurements," said Lt. Boyd. "What we find with an investigator using this equipment, he's accurate to within two-hundredths of a foot."
The equipment also includes 3D scanners.
The completed forensic map can take anywhere from a half hour to several days.
"We've got the ability to gather more information than we've ever gathered before, then tie it all in together in a presentation. We literally have a 3D virtual model of the crash scene," said Lt. Shelton.
The information is then used in court to explain the science behind the crash and hopefully bring closure.
"Sometimes the closure is a hard thing to hear. There are times when the family member is the person who was at fault in the crash," said Lt. Shelton. "But also in cases where we're prosecuting a criminal case, the person who caused the crash, we end up putting them in prison. That's at least a step in the right direction."
CIRT assists with crashes not only statewide, but also federal cases as well. Lt. Shelton added some of the members of the CIRT team have lost family members involved in crashes so it’s a job they take to heart.
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