Eight years ago, when it took Grayslake Police Department Officer Joe Manges more than six hours to map and diagram by hand a two-car rollover crash scene on an Illinois roadway, causing a lengthy road closure, he knew a quicker mapping method was needed.
Following the crash, Officer Manges researched various forensic mapping equipment and drawing programs that would require less time, boost accuracy, and make his work more professional. He chose a mapping package from Laser Technology, Inc., since he already was using an LTI UltraLyte laser, used for both speed enforcement and mapping crash scenes.
In addition to working for Grayslake PD, Officer Manges also serves with the Lake County (IL) Major Crash Assistance Team (MCAT). As one of the team leaders, he introduced LTI’s equipment to the other MCAT members.
Since using this battery of equipment for subsequent accident scenes, the MCAT has achieved several benefits. "We just use fixed points at the scene, or we can create our own fixed points or control points," explains Officer Manges. "That's how we can triangulate our position and map the scene to scale."
A Mapstar Encoder that is part of LTI's mapping system precisely calculates a turned, horizontal angle that is referenced to a fixed point. "The angle encoder is a huge time saver," Officer Manges notes, adding "it also allows us to do crush measurements on the cars."
MCAT has approximately 60 accident investigators who work among various police departments throughout Lake County, Illinois, as well as with the county coroner's office. Once they receive a call, measuring the scene and reopening the roads as fast as possible are top priorities.
Using the LTI mapping equipment and field software has helped MCAT investigate crash scenes quicker and easier. For example, Officer Manges says he recently responded to an accident scene involving a single vehicle crash on a busy, four-lane state road. The road had two curves throughout the 1,000-foot crash scene. Using the LTI equipment, Manges was able to map the scene and reopen the roadway within two hours after his arrival.
Once a diagram is ready to be created with the mapped points, Officer Manges says he can include helpful details in diagrams completed with the CAD Zone's CrashZone program (also part of the LTI package) such as houses, trees and shrubs in addition to other basic aspects that are part of an accident scene—cars, gouges, scratches, roadway, and skid marks.
Another benefit that Officer Manges cites with using the LTI equipment is the ability to just gather more data points at the crash scene compared to manual mapping. "We can include maybe 300 times more points with this method than we could measuring it by hand," Manges said. "It just makes you more thorough and professional in your job, and more accurate." And, best of all, roads usually are re-opened more quickly, reducing the risk of secondary accidents.