BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A series of car crashes on Long Island on Wednesday were witnessed by law enforcement.
And it was all planned.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the intentional crashes are part of new training to help improve the reliability of expert witnesses in court cases.
When a car crashes onlookers may look away or look too late — and they don’t always make reliable witnesses in court.
So on Wednesday, accident investigators gathered to crash cars on purpose to watch and learn so that the prosecution in cases of reckless and drunk drivers will stick.
It was the first of its kind, a week-long training for state and local law enforcement, sponsored by the district attorneys of Nassau and Suffolk counties, with a live driver at the wheel.
Rusty Haight is no crash dummy. He’s done this more than 1,000 times, giving law enforcement the firsthand training it needs to accurately interpret event data recorders, a car’s so-called black box. It’s technology that’s constantly changing.
“They’ve seen the crash. They can relate to it to something tangible. Remember when we were kids and we had a science class and we maybe opened up a frog? Doing it firsthand, seeing it, is a lot different than reading about it in a book,” said Haight, the director of the Collision Safety Institute.
The data is critical because not all cars have event data recorders and not all car makers allow law enforcement access.
Nassau prosecutors say they’re battling BMW for access in the death of an engaged couple last spring. They were killed by allegedly speeding impaired drivers.
“We need to be able to give families, to give victims, answers as to what happened, how their loved one was injured or killed,” said Nassau County Executive Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick said.
The training making expert witnesses of police who must verify that the known speed is accurately reflected in the data recorder. Haight, himself, boasts no serious injures after intentionally crashing cars at up to 55 mph.
“At the end of the day, investigating a crash makes roadways safer,” Haight said.
And that takes better-trained investigators.
The training was paid for with assets forfeited from criminals through the DA offices of Nassau and Suffolk.