ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

The accuracy of driver accounts of vehicle accidents

Versteegh, Sean

Crashes - Analysis


Eyewitness evidence is often used in court and by researchers to reconstruct the events of a road accident. That eyewitnesses are often unreliable has long been known, but the extent of eyewitness reliability and the variables that affect reliability are not well understood within the field of road accident investigation. This study investigated the accuracy with which crash involved drivers could recall the pieces of information that are often required by crash investigators to reconstruct and understand the causes of a vehicle accident. Driver reports of vehicle speed, weather conditions, time of crash, impact points and vehicle position and movements have been assessed for accuracy against objective physical evidence and crash reconstructions based on this physical evidence. The results of this study show that drivers recall many of the events of a crash and the details of their environment accurately. However, drivers significantly underestimate their travelling speed. A number of factors were identified that influence the amount of information that drivers recall and the accuracy of this information.