LAS VEGAS -- Car crashes happen on southern Nevada roads every day, causing billions of dollars in economic and societal harm each year.
However, investigators can learn something from each accident, and Monday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, they had real-life, hands-on training with a series of crash tests.
Rusty Haight got behind the wheel of a clunker, on a collision course with other junk cars. Parts flew, fluids leaked and the old Crown Vic is now wrecked.
Haight is in the Guinness Book of World Records for conducting more than 1,000 crash tests, but he is not playing bumper cars for fun.
"The goal here is to give the accident investigator and reconstructionist an opportunity to see a crash first hand. Because normally, they get to see crashes once they've already occurred. There is bent metal on the roadway. There are dead bodies on the scene, and they're getting there in the aftermath," Haight said.
Law enforcement and accident investigators from all over the world come to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Automotive Crash Research and Collision Safety Institute's crash conference.
Lenny Simpson has investigated his share of smash-ups, but each crash provides critical clues.
"We want to see how fast the car is going so we have to take into consideration tire marks. We take into consideration the damage to the vehicle," Simpson said.
The science learned at the speedway can be used to keep real-life accidents from happening, but crash tests can't stop some of the trouble on the road that is getting out of control.
"Not paying attention is becoming more and more prevalent, especially with the little smart phones that we have," Simpson said.
For now, Haight will continue to be a human crash test dummy, hoping to reduce wrecks on the road.
"Crashes are violent, crashes are dangerous, and we try to avoid the unforeseen if we can," Haight said.
The crash conference will go on all week, with classroom instruction as well. The course benefits both criminal and civil accident investigations
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