Forensic Collision, Accident Reconstruction Expert Says Initial Tiger Woods Reports Are Misleading

Dr. Justin P Schorr, President and Principal Collision Reconstruction Engineer at DJS Associates, provides forensic consulting and expert witness services nationwide. DJS is part of the OutKick Small Business Program.

This analysis of the Tiger Woods accident is based on publicly available data as of 500 pm ET on 2/24/21.

With the available information, Schorr analyzed the scene of the Tiger Woods accident exclusively for OutKick.

Narrative 1: Dangerous stretch of roadway, lots of curves, lots of crashes.  FALSE

The first piece of physical evidence, consistent with a “loss of control” of the Hyundai is found on the center median strip separating the northbound lanes of Hawthorne from the southbound lanes.  Taking this as the first point where we can say that the collision sequence had begun, the approach to this location is more or less a straight shot for just under 900 feet.  The tip of the median is at the start of a long, gradual bend in the roadway to the right – though this bend has a critical speed in excess of 130 miles per hour (the maximum speed at which vehicles could, if they so desired, negotiate the turn without leaving yaw marks) and accordingly is not of the nature which would cause an operator to lose control of their vehicle. 

It should be mentioned that Hawthorne Boulevard northbound, in this immediate area, is on a downgrade which approaches 10%.  This downgrade, while steep, can still be safely and easily navigated consistent with data from the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) – a Statewide database maintained by UC Berkeley – which shows that there were no other collisions for the 11 years prior to this one which occurred within approximately 0.5 miles of this location. 

Here is a map of the collisions documented in the immediate area of the crash in the SWITRS database from 2009 – 2019

Narrative 2: Every headline (including some on OutKick, as we reported based on police reports) characterizing this as ROLLOVER collision, which is WRONG.

Based on the physical evidence available at this time, including photographs and video of the roadway markings, the damage to the vehicle, and the point of rest location and orientation – this data is NOT consistent with this collision being a “rollover”. 

While the Hyundai does indeed come to rest on its side, this in indicative of the vehicle overturning at the tail end of the collision sequence and not with an extended rollover event, as it is being characterized in the news reports.  There are no roadway markings consistent with the vehicle overturning prior to departing the west side of the roadway (this departure point being approximately 100 feet from where it ultimately came to rest and approximately 300 feet north of where the vehicle crossed the center median) and the damage pattern to the roof of the vehicle (where there is almost no damage) suggests that the vehicle did not rollover at any point. 

Rather, provided the principal direction of force consistent with the damage to the front of the vehicle (front to rear and centered towards the passenger side) and the damage to the foliage along the west side of the roadway (it appears a large tree/stump has been uprooted as a result of being struck by the Hyundai) the data is consistent with the Hyundai striking a tree/stump with its front, passenger side and then subsequently rotating in a clockwise direction consistent with the laws of physics.  This rotation, coupled with the uphill topography immediately west of where the Hyundai came to rest, would introduce a substantive rotational force about the z-axis and promote the overturn onto the driver side.  

Here it is important to point out that the majority of the damage to the Hyundai’s front end and the only overturning in the collision sequence both occurred within approximately 20 feet of where the Hyundai came to rest.  The data is consistent with the vehicle being upright, from the point of the loss of control until it struck the tree – or approximately 95% of the 400+ foot travel path across the median and southbound side of the roadway much discussed in current news articles. 

What to expect moving forward:

The police have almost certainly already acquired what’s known as “event data” from the vehicle, which will detail, at a minimum, the 5 seconds prior to airbag deployment through various data elements including speed, steering wheel angle, and brake status.  Depending on what that speed is (and there is nothing in terms of physical evidence which necessarily establishes the vehicle was traveling well in excess of the 45 miles per hour speed limit) this data may or may not capture the moments which preceded the initial loss of control.  However, depending on the capabilities of the police department conducting the investigation, there is likely additional pre-crash data which can be accessed through the infotainment system given that this is a brand new vehicle.

For more information on DJS and the services it provides, visit its website by clicking here.