Persons with no training in engineering are generally unaware of the nature of engineering analysis, and so tend to assume that testing, as a means of determining the causation of accidents, is a dominant tool of the engineer. In the following examples, we shall undertake to explain the nature of engineering analysis, and to show that it is more basic than testing because testing without analysis is meaningless. Further, while analysis is always necessary in accident reconstruction, testing is only sometimes necessary.
Second to automobile accidents, accidents due to falls are the leading cause of injury and death. Of these, accidents due to slipping (not tripping) form a large proportion. Slipping may occur on floors, walkways, and stairs or steps. For Introductory purposes, however, the present discussion will be limited to slipping on flat surfaces such as a floor or sidewalk.
Accident reconstructionists are often called on to determine the distance that a car, covers while being braked to a stop. Conversely, the reconstructionist may be given information as to the length of the skidmarks left by a car on the roadway, and may be asked to determine how fast the car must have been going at the beginning of the skid. An expert can accomplish this with considerable accuracy, based on a knowledge of the physical principles that are involved, plus available information relating to the friction of tires on various types of road surfaces.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there are approximately 10,000 golf car related injuries requiring emergency room treatment in the US each year. One significant mode of injury in golf car accidents is passenger ejection, which can lead to serious injuries, especially of the head. Based on CPSC statistics, roughly 35% of golf car accidents involve a person falling out of the car. In addition to ejection accidents, at least 10% of golf car accidents involve a rollover and statistics indicate that such accidents are roughly twice as likely to lead to injuries requiring a hospital stay as non-rollover accidents.
According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) accident estimates, tens of thousands of stepladder accidents requiring emergency room treatment occurred annually in the United States. Approximately 85-90% of these accidents involve the user falling from the ladder and 8-9% of these injuries are serious enough to require that the victim be admitted to a hospital. In addition to posing a severe health concern, these accidents have significant loss-of-wages and high medical expense implications.