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Motor Vehicle Accident Analysis

The first century of living with, and dying in, motor vehicle accidents is now behind us. This lengthy experience has produced a great deal of scientific knowledge about the driver-vehicle-highway "system" and many technical improvements. However, motor vehicle crashes remain one of the leading causes of death and disability.

Crashes and injuries occur as the result of system failures. That is, the driver-vehicle-highway system failed to prevent the accident and then the injury, once the crash occurred. The driver, the vehicle, the roadway environment, and the legal/administrative network of laws, regulations, and standards are intended to avoid injuries on the roads, but all are themselves subject to failure.

When serious injury occurs, it is important to identify the specific failures that caused it. Everything can go wrong, and many crashes have multiple causes. Accident analysis requires a comprehensive, systems-analytic approach, with a human focus.

Systems Failures

The human factor is the key to successful accident analysis. Human factors is the scientific study of system failures resulting from human error and the vehicle and environmental factors that contributed to it. Most motor vehicle crashes result from some form of human error. Analysis of human error in crashes requires specialized human factors expertise.

Northport Associates offers human-factors accident analysis to support the work of lawyers, accident reconstructionists, coroners, fleet owners, and insurers. Northport can provide whatever level of assistance is required – quick tactical advice, expert testimony on particular questions, or comprehensive analysis and presentation of the human factors foundation for the case.

Northport's principals have extensive experience with accident cases and data, and with the human, vehicular, environmental, and administrative factors that increase crashes and aggravate their consequences. For example, in a serious crash involving an emergency vehicle we provided a detailed analysis of driver perceptions and reactions, and our report helped settle the case.

Human Errors

There is truth in the old saying that most crashes are caused by "the nut holding the steering wheel."

Failure in perception, attention, decision, or motor skill may cause up to 85% of crashes. However, other forms of human error are also important. Vehicles, roads, and regulatory systems are designed, built, and maintained by fallible humans. Products and programs may not meet sound standards and practices may not be based on sound human factors research. Poor design is common with respect to human needs and abilities – existing technical knowledge is often ignored. Northport can help find all the human errors contributing to a crash, and the reasons for them.

Innocent victims and society in general bear the tremendous costs of crashes – economic losses, pain and disability, and loss of life and loved ones. Compensation for losses is just and important, but accident causes and responsibility are complex and not always obvious. Expert human factors case analysis is essential to focus true responsibility, and Northport is experienced at providing it.