Every Minute Counts: The Importance of Emergency Warning Placement


Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant ::::
Federal motor carrier safety regulations require commercial trucks to carry emergency flares or reflective triangles. When a commercial truck becomes disabled on a public roadway, the truck operator is required to place those warning devices at specified distances behind the truck and to do so within ten minutes of becoming disabled. This, of course, is intended to reduce the risk of a subsequent collision.
Over the years, our engineers have evaluated numerous collisions involving disabled commercial vehicles. We are typically asked to evaluate the reason for the disablement; however, we are also often asked whether there exists any means to determine if the emergency warnings were placed within the required ten minutes. Historically, these were hard questions to answer, if not impossible. More recently, however, on-board technology such as engine control modules and GPS devices have provided data relative to when a vehicle became disabled. Yet, there remains no built-in method to document when the warnings are placed, leaving this answer subject to witness recall and testimony. However, if a driver could also take a photograph of the triangles or flares with his or her cell phone immediately after placing them, then send that photo in an email or text message, the meta-data from the photo or message would document the placement time which, together with other on-board truck data, could establish a definitive timeline between the placement and disablement. Many trucking companies provide emergency training protocols, but in our experience, adding a simple step of photographing warnings placement could save substantial investigative resources later on.
For additional information on DJS’ Automotive Capabilities, contact Leslie E. Lovre, Technical Assistant, at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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