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Crash Narrative

State of Vermont Uniform Crash Report

Instructions for Completing the Crash Narrative, Page 2

  1. Incident Number - Enter the incident number assigned to this particular crash in the space provided at the top right hand corner of Page 2.   (In the web application, the Incident Number will automatically populate from page 1 information.)


  1. Reporting Agency - Enter the name of the agency reporting the crash.  (In the web application, the Reporting Agency will automatically populate from page 1 information.)


  1. Crash Narrative - This space is provided for entry of an appropriate description of the crash occurrence.    (In the web application, you may type the narrative directly into the web application narrative page, or you may copy the narrative from a word processing tool or the Spillman table and paste into the web application narrative page.  If a law enforcement agency hand writes their narrative, you may scan the narrative and attach the narrative as an “image”.)


Basic Crash Investigation:  Investigation Report Outline


The following outline is consistent with the basic crash investigation course at the Vermont Police Academy (VCJTC), incorporating existing material from published sources and professional experience.  The outline is intended as a guide for Vermont law enforcement officers completing traffic collision reports.  It is a basic outline not designed to be comprehensive in all cases, such as technical exams, speed calculations or commercial vehicles.  Nothing here is intended to limit the inclusion of material pertinent to any investigation.  The intent is to provide a uniform way of reporting traffic collisions and that users of the reports will be able to do so most efficiently.



Outline for Completing Traffic Collision Narratives


I.          Introduction: “Setting the Stage”


The introduction normally contains initial information and observations from proceeding to the scene, arrival and control of the scene and the beginning of the investigation.  It is normally not necessary to repeat extensive details of people and vehicles if the information is included on the report form.  The more complex or severe the case, the more information may be needed in the introduction.  Local practice may also dictate some of the information to be included.


     A.        1.  Indicate what you were dispatched to, or how you became aware of the crash and where you responded from.

                2.  Identify any other emergency services (other police, fire, EMS) or citizens assisting at the scene.

     B.        1.  Describe the scene: type of road, type of intersection, type of traffic control (signs, lights, lane markings), road and weather conditions, number of vehicles at the scene or involved (LSA).

     C.        1.   Describe rest positions of all traffic units (vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.):  direction facing, relationship to roadway, if overturned, engaged, etc.

                 2.  Indicate positions of injured, if any (e.g. vehicle occupants inside or outside vehicles, already transported from scene, at nearby location, etc.) or indicate no injuries involved/reported.

                 3.  Indicate if CONTROLLED or UNCONTROLLED positions of rest - if controlled, how moved and by whom should appear in Statements or Investigation sections.

      D.        1.  Identification of operators:  by license, other ID, verbally, by other party, etc.

      E.         1.  Fatality:  Notification of Medical Examiner and State’s Attorney

                       a.     Note time M.E. and S.A. called

                       b.     Time deceased pronounced

                       c.     Time permission for removal given

                       d.     Where deceased taken


II.        Statements:  “The Human Element”


The report form should already have name, address, DOB and license number for the Operators, so it is not necessary to repeat that information, but it can, of course, be done.  The same applies for witnesses.  Telephone numbers are useful to have.


Pay attention to correct grammar and syntax when reporting statements.  A common type of error is:  I asked Operator #2 (Greene) how fast he was going.  Greene said, “He was going about the normal speed.”  Greene would not refer to himself as “he”, but “I”, so either the quotation is wrong or Greene was describing someone else.  Quotes can be an excellent way to convey information, but if misused, tend to be confusing and make the report writer look less professional.


The practical rule is to use the numbers that match the report form and put the operators’ last names in parentheses:“Operator #1 (Marin) told me she was pulling out of her driveway and . . .”

Witnesses may be numbered.


III.       Investigation: “Vehicle and Environment - The Physical Evidence”


This section encompasses all the hard evidence of a case and any analysis of that evidence and information as to how it was documented.  Some opinions may be presented here, but generally they go in the Conclusion.


The rules of evidence apply to traffic crash investigation.  Evidence must always be: relevant, material, competent.  Evidence must be collected, documented and preserved using accepted procedures.


     A.  Path of travel, point of contact (place of rest is already in the Introduction, but may be repeated here) - indicate both for all traffic units.


     B.  Path of travel after collision: indicate, as applicable, how path shown or determined, if there is physical evidence (tire marks, metal marks, debris trail), which supports (or contradicts) statements, disengagement, repeated events, how/by whom moved to controlled rest.


     C.  Damage to vehicles, objects:

            1.  location, extent

            2.  type: contact or induced

            3.  characteristics: ruboff, imprint, transfer, overlap

            4.  thrust: direction(s) of force(s)


     D.  Injuries

           We are not medically trained, but injuries can help us determine occupant position in vehicles, match people to damage and the objects that injured them and have legal significance when charging serious law violations.

           Articulate how you matched injuries and try to support that with photographs and measurements.

           If you are dealing with a serious injury case remember that the legal standard for “serious bodily injury” is in 13 V.S.A. § 1021.  Refer to this, not the manual definition of “incapacitating”, before charging a law violation involving an injury element.


     E.  Fatality

          Record how the deceased was identified and account for any personal effects that were recovered.  It may be necessary to attend an autopsy to view injuries and match them for occupant placement or to match vehicle damage in a pedestrian crash.


     F.  Roadway Evidence

          1.  Tire marks: prints, imprints, skid marks, scuff marks, flat/underinflated tire marks - indicate type(s), number, made by what vehicle and how that was determined, lengths, [chord, middle ordinate for yaw].

          2.  Metal marks: chips, chops, gouges, grooves, scratches, scrapes - indicate type(s), made by what part of what vehicle, how determined.

          3.  Damage to fixed objects: caused by what unit, how determined.

          4.  Debris:  liquid; solid; vehicle parts, or material from, or cargo lost; from other object(s).

          5.  Point of impact: location, how determined.   (Remember that tire marks indicate positions of tires, not corner of vehicles.)

          6.  Traffic control: lane markings, stop/yield signs, traffic or street lights, warning signs, directional arrows, flagperson, police officer.


     G.  Points of Perception

          1.  Point of Possible Perception: determine location from assessing the environment and vehicle - this always exists for every traffic unit.

          2.  Point of Actual Perception: harder to determine precisely depending on available physical evidence - when asking people, have them physically show you.


     H.  Recording the Evidence

          1.  Measurements: include all involved in measuring; explain unusual measurements; measurements mentioned in narrative should be on diagram or measurement sheet.

          2.  Photographs: take at all serious and fatal crashes - note who took photographs, distinguish film or digital, video.


      I.  Law Violations

        1.  DUIs need not be detailed here.  Simply indicate there was evidence of impairment and processing was done.

         2.  Status violations (DLS, NL, NR, VNI, DE, INS, etc.) would be covered here.  Violations related to the cause of the crash (FYY, ESA, DR, LOP, NO, etc.) are dealt with in the Conclusion.


     J.  Technical Information/Expert Assistance

          Speed calculations, lamp exam, time-distance or other specialized work should only be done by those qualified.  Any time such material is presented without a proper foundation, the officer involved risks appearing foolish or presumptuous, which damages credibility.  Seek out qualified help and ask for a supplemental report when it is needed.  If you are working with new material for the first time, have it checked by someone with more experience before going to court.  Good preparation helps build a good professional reputation.


     K.  Commercial Motor Vehicle Collisions

           Commercial vehicle collisions often involve additional complications such as hazardous materials, lengthy road closing and clean-up time.  The Vermont Commercial Motor Vehicle Accident Response Team (CVMART) is available to provide technical assistance in the investigation of CMV collisions.  For the best results, request that CVMART respond whenever possible and request the officer(s) provide a supplemental report.  (Also see AOT LE Bulletin 00-23)


IV.       Conclusion: “Putting It All Together”

Most law enforcement reporting is factual.  Opinions are limited to those things in which we are expert or have specialized training.  In the case of motor vehicle crashes, officers know more than the average citizen by virtue of training and experience.  Because those levels of expertise depend on the extent of training and its application, an officer rendering an opinion must be sure to limit conclusions to what can be proven at that level.  Therefore, with Basic training, there should be no opinions about speed based on tire mark analysis without support from someone with (at least) At-Scene training.  Simple time-distance is available at all levels, but acceleration/deceleration is not taught until the Technical/Advanced level.  In all cases, be sensible and do not overstep the bounds of what your certification includes.  There is plenty of help available.

The Conclusion is the officer’s summation, the opinion or opinions as to how and why the crash occurred.  It must be based on acts already presented in the preceding three sections of the report.  No new information should appear in the Conclusion.  If there is conflicting information, such as between different statements, or statements and the physical evidence, it is resolved in the Conclusion.

State your conclusion.  Summarize the evidence that supports your conclusion, and explain why conflicting information is inaccurate, unreliable or not credible.  Everything is based on the facts of the case and the application of your training and experience.  It may include assistance of other officers, who may need to write a supplemental report.

The Conclusion is a professional opinion based on fact; it is not a feeling or a hunch.  If you cannot fully explain a collision, because an operator has left the scene and cannot be found, someone has died, the evidence has been contaminated or tampered with, and expert help is not enough, then say so.  Never give an opinion you cannot prove with the facts.

V. Recommendations

The Recommendations section is where law enforcement officers report whether court action will be taken.  Also, this section is where any issued VCVCs are recorded as well as whether this case will be sent to the State's Attorney's Office.

Options INclude:

  1.  No Action recommended
  2. Written warning
  3. VCVC
  4. Issued a citation to appear in County Superior Court Criminal Division

112.  Officer’s Signature – The investigating officer should sign in ink.

113.  Additional Sheets Attached – Circle “yes” or “no” if additional narrative pages are attached.

If submitting electronically with the web application, all narratives should be in the Narrative section, including any supplemental reports.

Supplemental information can be scanned and attached as an image.