Roadway Marks As Evidence In Auto Accident Cases

The proper investigation of an auto accident requires close inspection of the roadway and surrounding area to find physical evidence in the form of marks on the surface of the roadway or adjoining areas that often explain how the accident happened. Our auto accident attorneys at Cross & Smith handle car wreck cases in Tuscaloosa and throughout Alabama and we have the investigation experience and staff to properly investigate the facts of your auto accident.

All auto accidents leave some physical evidence of what happened. This evidence must be inspected, measured, photographed and documented as soon as possible after the accident happens so that this critical information is preserved.

The effect of an auto accident on the roadway is identified by certain marks made by the dynamic movement of the vehicles involved in the accident. These marks include skidmarks, yawmarks, scuffmarks made by acceleration or flat tires, imprints in the pavement or adjoining land area, road scars or debris.

A tire mark on the roadway is a mark made by a tire on one or more vehicles. A tire friction mark is a tire mark made when a slipping or sliding tire rubs the road or other surface. One of the most common tire marks is a skidmark. A skidmark is made by a tire that is sliding without rotation on a road or other surface. The sliding may be caused by braking, collision damage or some other reason. Usually, it is caused by braking. Skidmarks found in the aftermath of a car crash appear differently based on the makeup of the surface and its condition at the time of the wreck. Depending on the nature of the pavement where the accident happens, skidmarks may be a heavy black smear, an almost invisible white track, or in the form of a furrow. If the roadway contains abrasive material, such as loose rock or gravel, the skidmarks may appear as surface scratches.

It is rare that an investigation reveals a perfect set of skidmarks where all four tires begin to skid at the same time. Ordinarily, skidmarks vary in length. Depending on the braking maneuver involved, one or more tires may make no visible mark on the road surface. Skidmarks made by braking are, however, characterized by certain features found after an auto accident happens. They are comparatively straight, but sometimes swerve toward the lower edge of the pavement. Turning one way or the other is highly unlikely. The length varies widely depending on the distance of braking. Skidmarks typically do not exceed one hundred (100) yards. Marks made by left and right tires usually have the same amount of darkness and width. Skidmarks made by front tires are most often more prominent than marks made by rear tires. At the beginning point, a skidmark is the width of the tread on the tire. It can be wider, but it is rarely narrower than the tire tread. The abrupt endpoint of a skidmark is important because it almost always ends either at the point where the vehicle stops or where the collision begins.

Another type of tire mark often found at the scene of an automobile accident is a scuffmark. Scuffmarks are marks made by a tire that is rotating and sliding at the same time on pavement or another surface. A yawmark is a scuffmark made on a surface by a rotating tire that is slipping more or less parallel to its axis. An acceleration scuffmark is made when there is enough power provided to the driving wheels to make one or more spins or slips on the roadway. A flat tire mark is made by a deflated tire.

Yawmarks are the most critical kind of scuffmarks to find when investigating a car wreck. Yawmarks are curved in shape because they are caused by steering. They are not made by ribs in the tread. Instead, they are made by either gritty particles caught in the grooves or by tire sidewall ribs. Many times, yawmarks are mistaken for post collision skidmarks. It is important as part of the investigation to determine whether the marks are yaw (rotating wheel) or skid (sliding wheel) if at all possible.

Acceleration scuff marks appear when there is enough power supplied to the driving wheels that it causes one of them to spin on the pavement. The typical scenario that results in an acceleration scuff mark is a driver who “spins out” with excessive speed. On pavement, these marks look remarkably similar or identical to a braking skidmark. On soft or loose roadway material, the spinning wheel throws loose material backwards out of the furrow.

A flat tire mark is a scuff mark made by a deflated tire that is underinflated or overloaded. With speed and distance, a flat tire, as defined here, becomes hot and rubs the roadway surface as it rolls. Ordinarily, flat tire marks are not connected with accidents and may result from a tire that becomes flat during the accident. However, if a clearly determined flat tire mark leads to the point of collision and the vehicle travelled from the same direction, there is physical evidence to establish that the tire was disabled before the wreck and contributed to cause the wreck.

Tire imprints made by a rolling tire are less important in accident investigation than skidmarks, yawmarks or scuffmarks, but tire prints on the shoulder or adjoining soft material area are used to demonstrate where the vehicle left the hard pavement, came back onto the hard pavement or its direction of travel after leaving the roadway. The imprints are made by showing a rut in soft material or the tread pattern may be identified in the rut depending on its composition.

If you, or someone close to you, have been involved in a car accident, we encourage you to contact the skilled Alabama auto accident lawyers at Cross & Smith. We have handled numerous auto accident cases in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If you would like to consult with us, please contact us online or call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free confidential consultation.

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