By Mr. Mike Bowers (Leonard Wood)June 18, 2015
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (June 18, 2015) -- Their study guide and workbook resembles a cross between mapping and mathematics. To pass the course and become certified traffic investigators, the 25 students must plot points of perception, draw scaled diagrams and calculate formulas that would tax a math major.
"There is a ton of math, which isn't good when you are dyslexic," quipped Amanda Machado, Fort Benning, Georgia, and one of three Department of the Army civilian police officers attending the 17-day Traffic Management and Collision Investigation course on Fort Leonard Wood.
Why all the precision and scientific approach to investigating fender benders? Traffic-accident investigators construct diagrams supported by formulas and, along with photography, determine the facts of an incident or collision.
"Attention to detail -- if they take the wrong measurement of a skid mark, measure the wrong skid mark or interpret things the wrong way, that can change a speed from 30 mph to 15 mph," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Rian Jones, course instructor, 343rd Training Squadron, 37th Training Wing, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
"That would mean an individual who was actually breaking the law might walk away, because the traffic investigator's mathematic equation was wrong or the attention to detail wasn't there," Jones, a Tampa, Florida, native, added.
Jones is here at the invitation of the 92nd Military Police Battalion in conjunction with the Directorate of Emergency Services. The course is normally held at Lackland AFB, with the mobile training teams geared for outside the contiguous United States.
Acquiring and conducting the course on post saved travel-cost dollars, said Staff Sgt. Derek Atwood, DES Traffic Management and Collision Investigations noncommissioned officer in charge. The course also includes Installation Management Command Soldiers from Fort Drum, New York; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Lee, Virginia and Fort Benning.
Upon completion of the course, the Soldiers and DACPs will receive the Additional Skill Identifier Q9 (Traffic Accident Investigator). The six DES accident investigators in the class will mean all 11 are certified, according to Atwood.
"We have MPs who don't have this certification," said Spc. David Campos, 252nd Military Police Detachment Traffic Section. "We are taught the basics on how to conduct a traffic stop or investigate a scene.
"When they involve injuries or fatalities, we can't do those, as we don't have the training," added Campos, a San Diego native. "The training shows us how to perform detail by detail, how to plot the scene and preserve the evidence."
Since there are a lot of traffic accidents and patrol officers are normally first responders, the course is needed, according to Machado, a St. Louis native.
"I volunteered for the course, as the skills would be good to know. This is a really good course with lots of stuff I've never done before," Machado said.
Sgt. Zachary Curry, an MP from Fort Lee, said there is a large informational overflow. "It's a lot to take in right off the bat, but it is going to help bring something new to the section when I get back. It's another skill to add to my tool bag. I can use this anywhere, as it is federally accredited and applies outside the military," the Baltimore native said.
The course provides instruction in the application of analyzing collision components, diagramming, formulas, collision photography, legal aspects, drug and alcohol enforcement, hit-and-run investigation, planning traffic management and collision reports.
It's the legal aspect that is paramount in traffic accidents that involve major injuries, loss of life or property, according to course instructor Tech. Sgt. Anton Hinrichsen, 343rd Training Squadron, and native of Placerville, California.
"In court proceedings, traffic investigation cases will be reviewed, and people will ask was the investigation accurate and done properly," Hinrichsen said. "They will want to know if the case was accurate and handled by certified investigators."
Hinrichsen said that is the reason the course is demanding.
"They need to have the confidence to do it right, and report the facts and not have them be opinions," he added. "You wouldn't want just anyone investigating a crime scene, and it is the same with traffic investigations."