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investigation · Major Accident Investigation Team

The Washington State Patrol's Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) is charged with investigating catastrophic collisions occurring within the jurisdiction of the Washington State Patrol. These collisions are defined by specific criteria that, by their severity, demand exhaustive investigation and review. The criteria for MAIT investigations includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • When a fatal or major injury occurs involving on-duty State Patrol or Department of Transportation personnel.
  • When a fatal or major injury collision occurs involving a stateĀ  owned vehicle.
  • A collision where three or more fatalities occur.
  • A multi-vehicle collision with one or more fatalities involving any commercial vehicle (over 10,000 pounds).
  • Any collision in which a fatal or major injury occurs involving a school bus carrying any passengers.
  • Any collision resulting in a fatality or major injury where a high likelihood of a tort claim against the state exists.

MAIT History and Operations

The Washington State Patrol MAIT Team was formed in 1990, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation, as a means of conducting intensive investigations to determine all of the causative factors leading up to the collision and injuries/fatalities. These investigations focus on the human factors that may arise on a case-by-case basis. These factors are analyzed in association with the pre-collision, collision, and post-collision phases. The overriding objective is the utilization of the knowledge gained through these investigations to prevent the occurrence of similar collisions.

The MAIT is comprised of personnel from the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Department of Transportation. There are three detective investigators from the Washington State Patrol, and a Vehicle Systems Analyst from the Washington State Department of Transportation. Leadership of the team is charged to a detective sergeant from the Washington State Patrol. The team members are specialists in their respective areas of expertise and all have extensive experience in collision investigation.

The team leader coordinates all aspects of the investigations conducted by the MAIT. They are also responsible for coordination of other MAIT operations, such as collision instruction, seminars to industry professionals, and technology research and testing. The three detective investigators are certified collision reconstructionists specializing in occupant kinematics, collision reconstruction, vehicle dynamics, print-based and digital photography, and interviewing and interrogation. They utilize the latest in three-dimensional scene modeling software and computer-aided design software for reconstructing collision scenes and are trained and certified in scene forensic mapping.

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Types of Investigations

The MAIT performs two types of investigations: full, and limited or assist. A full investigation utilizes all team members who perform or are responsible for coordinating all aspects of the collision investigation. In a limited or assist investigation, the team or members of the team will handle a specific aspect(s) of the investigation. The report generated by the MAIT is supplemental to the investigating officer's report. These investigations are initiated by not only other Washington State Patrol officers, but officers from city, county, and federal agencies as well.

A full MAIT investigation will contain at least the following:

  • Roadway Environmental Report
  • Driver Profiles
  • Physical Evidence Description
  • Physical Evidence Analysis
  • Vehicle Damage Description/Analysis
  • Dynamics Diagram
  • Cause Analysis
  • Print Photographs/Digital Photographs
  • Autopsy and Injury Analysis/Description
  • Physical Evidence/Scene Diagram
  • Speed/Energy Calculations
  • Vehicle Systems Analysis
  • Time/Distance Analysis/Diagram
  • Conclusions/Recommendations

Other responsibilities of the MAIT include assistance to other investigation units in criminal investigations and crime scene responses. Since the formation of the MAIT, team members have been involved in over 700 investigations. Team members, as a function of the MAIT, have also authored research papers featured in national publications. The MAIT will continue to support the goals of the Washington State Patrol in the future and have contributed to the department's reputation as a recognized national leader in law enforcement and collision reconstruction.

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MAIT Investigation