SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In deadly car crashes, how do police determine who’s at fault? How they create the crash scene is pretty tech-savvy, in this week’s edition of Behind the Badge.

After a deadly car crash, the scene can get pretty grizzly. Car parts scattered on the street or sedans flipped upside down, with so much going on it may be tough to know how the crash happened or who is at fault.

Piecing together how cars got here is the job of the Collision Analysis Reconstruction team, or CAR team. It’s made up of officers from multiple police agencies in the Salt Lake Valley. Initial officers respond to the crash and then the CAR team arrives shortly after to figure out how it happened.  

Det. David Knaub with Salt Lake City Police said their key technology to do it is all digital.    

“We have what we call a FARO scanner, we use that on scene a lot,” said Det. Knaub.

Knaub explained the scanner is a 3D machine. It sends out millions of points and scans the scene. Once the scene has been scanned, it will make a 3D model of the crash called a “point cloud.”

The scanner lets police examine crash sites in digital dimensions for weeks and months long after the actual crash is cleared; hooked up to a 3D printer, you can even hold the crash in your hand.

“You can see the seats, so it does, it can get almost everything within the car,” said Knaub.

Looking at the digital scan they can tell how fast the cars were going, which direction they came from, how the crash happened, and why.   

“A lot of it is to see if a crime is committed, said Knaub, “Sometimes it’s just answers for families that have lost a loved one,” Knaub said.

To demo how it’s done, Knaub brought the FARO to our ABC4 News studios, scanning our building, and completely recreating our station digitally. 

Scanning crash sites lets them survey accidents quicker than ever before, but Knaub said examining them digitally afterward can still take roughly 100 hours each time before they’re done with a case.

While the process may be time-consuming, Knaub said they’ll know what happened on the road by the time they’re done.  

He said they respond to an average of two crashes a week, in the Salt Lake Valley. With the time it takes to go through all the data, it can be up to a year before they’re ready to make a report on each crash.