Conspicuity and Line of Sight
On the Scene E-Newsletter, Edition 152, January 11, 2012
Opinions are split 50/50 as to whether this word Conspicuity is harder to pronounce or spell. Some of us struggle to do either. However, a conspicuity expert can also be a very useful asset in many Premises Liability cases and conspicuity is a very important factor in many motor vehicle accidents. The definition of conspicuity is:
conspicuity (plural conspicuities)
1. The property of being clearly discernible
2. The state or quality of being clear or bright; brightness; conspicuousness.
Usually issues of conspicuity are dealt with by a Human Factors expert. CED has engineers that have studied equipment controls to determine which controls could actually be seen by the operator. Our Human Factors experts have worked many cases where they have looked at Warning Labels (their design, color, size and location) to ascertain if they were in fact effective warnings, or merely just “noise” in a sea of stickers.
Accident reconstructionists, who are not dedicated Human Factors experts, also deal with the issue of conspicuity on a regular basis. Often with accidents involving motor vehicles, pedestrians or bicycles it is critical to determine who could see what, and when. If this is a qualitative issue of shapes or colors and whether they blend into the environment then a Human Factor’s expert may be appropriate. But, if it’s a quantitative question, a question of sight lines then an accident reconstructionist is often the expert best suited to assist you. The tools available to today’s engineer are remarkable. The rendering/animation programs being used allow the reconstructionist to not only ascertain lines of sight, but gives them a simple way to display to the adjuster, attorney or juror complex changes in these lines of sight as objects and subjects move through an environment. If you have a case that involves a pedestrian strike, it’s a very powerful tool to have an animation that recreates the accident and can show what happened from the point of view of both the pedestrian and the vehicle operator. Knowing exactly what the participants could see and when they could see it is often one of the most important factors in a case.
The animation software that can create these animations can be quite specialized but, as with any program, it’s the accuracy of the data that is entered into the program that is most important. Here the readily available Google Earth and Google Streetview are becoming more and more invaluable. An experienced reconstructionist can now take detailed measurements of the accident scene from his computer, input them into ever more powerful rendering software and provide a detailed animation that displays the lines of sight from the accident from multiple points of view. A jury can now see, almost first hand, that the truck driver probably never saw the bicyclist because of the hedges or that the pedestrian was in plain view of the motorist for over six seconds before they collided.
Trained CED engineers combine their decades of experience investigating accidents with these accessible and affordable software tools to help shed light on some of the lack of conspicuity with regards to accident reconstruction. For more information on CED experts, please call 800.780.4221.