Several officers from law enforcement agencies across the state gathered in Georgetown on Friday for the rare opportunity to witness a live two-vehicle crash as part of a training course in collision reconstruction.
The Traffic Class Reconstruction class is offered by Georgetown Police Department to all law enforcement agencies across Kentucky. This current class is the fourth cycle that has been offered by GPD.
The staged crash featured one vehicle being pulled by another into a stationary vehicle, in order to simulate the events of a real collision. The experience is an invaluable learning opportunity for officers, said GPD Lt. Nicholas Lodal, who was involved in the creation and implementation of the course.
“Obviously any time someone is seriously hurt or injured or killed in a wreck, it’s a very emotional time, and then it’s also a time where everybody is looking for answers,” he said. “By us training in a specialized investigative role like this and knowing what to look for, specifically in crashes and being able to work our way from what we’re presented with and work our way backwards to figure out what happened, not only can we look at providing closure for the family, but any applicable criminal charges or anything else that may come from that. We’re just able to give them the most detailed and professional product that I feel like our citizens deserve.”
The most recent class is made up of 20 people from 14 different Kentucky law enforcement agencies, but Lodal said the course has be given to 68 officers across 34 agencies in the last three years its been offered.
The course was developed because of a lack of an affordable opportunity in-state, Lodal said.
“Back a few years ago, we were looking at sending some of our folks to get some collision reconstruction training and realized that there wasn’t any option in the state,” he said. “We would have to send them out of state, and it wasn’t within our budget. So, I got permission from our chief to start looking at alternative options and ended up together with a guy who had retired, Richard Parkos, and I had a conversation with him. He was willing to come and basically partner with us.”
Parkos is a former GPD and Kentucky State Police employee who has been involved with collision reconstruction for 46 years. He developed the 240-hour training curriculum and teaches the class. The current class ended their fifth week of the six-week course on Friday, which always includes a collision recreation for officers to study firsthand.
“In that Friday of the fifth week, we will set up a crash for them, whether we do it live or we take a damaged vehicle or put it some place, or two damaged cars together,” Parkos said. “We bring them out to the scene. Here, they are able to see the actual crash like you did. So today, they will finish with the vehicles and what scene data they will record.”
In the final week of the course, Parkos said they get the take that data one step further.
“In two weeks, when we finish the course, the four groups will be questioned by a panel of experts, the same thing as if they were to go to a deposition in a crash that they have handled, and that finishes the course for them,” he said.
Although a crash scene is always set up for the class, Lodal said Friday was an even rarer opportunity because they were able to see the crash happen firsthand, rather than having it staged.
“This is the first time we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to crash two vehicles together,” Lodal said.
This point was reiterated by Parkos, who said the officers involved in the course being able to witness the crash firsthand provides an even better learning opportunity.
“Have you ever seen a wreck happen?” Parkos said. “Well, now you have. That’s the same thing with most officers here. The fact is that it’s over so quickly. This is something that, chances are, they might see in their career but probably not. They have to be ale to work from the end and work back to the beginning.”
Lodal added that the staging did not go entirely according to plan, but that is part of the learning experience.
“The only sure thing is the uncertainty,” he said. “I mean, did everything go today exactly as we’ hoped? No, but that’s the nature of the business. The same as, if you’re involved in a wreck, do you know exactly how it’s going to happen right before it happens? No. The fact that we got an impact and the fact that we’ve got something now that the guys can work to reconstruct, we’ve accomplished exactly what we were hoping to do.”
Parkos described crash reconstruction as “an art” as it involves so many different elements.
“Reconstruction is an art,” he said. “It’s probably 70-to-80 percent mathematics and known evidence and 20-to-30 percent imagination. As far I’m concerned, you can’t put a price tag on this type of training.”
With the Memorial Day holiday around the corner, Lodal said the timing was right for this as well, as GPD will be participating in the state’s Click-it or Ticket campaign beginning May 24.
“We anticipate more traffic on the road this year than last year, just with things starting to open back up and just kind of the restless nature of being on the other side of a pandemic, if you will,” he said. “Here in Scott County, we’ve noticed a roughly 3 percent increase in the number of collisions every year on our roadways. Last year was an exception, just with the lockdowns with saw a decrease. But numbers that we’re seeing this year seem to be trending right back where we would expect them to be.”
Parkos said he expects the course will be offered again in the near future, as it has proven to be very popular with agencies in the state.
Kyle Woosley can be reached at email@example.com.