September-October 2017

A prosecutor’s one-stop shop for crash reconstruction info

W. Clay Abbott

TDCAA DWI Resource Prosecutor in Austin

Every two years, attorneys at TDCAA hit the road to tell you all about the changes to the laws of Texas, and they change a bunch. The laws of physics, though—not so much. When I tried my first impaired driving crash case, I remember thinking that I really should have paid more attention in physics class. I had thought I’d never need it in life as a lawyer, but I was wrong. Turns out that crash reconstruction in a car crash involves lots of physics.
    Luckily, my good friend John Kwasnowski, professor emeritus of forensic physics and a world-renowned expert in crash reconstruction, has put a vast portion of his work online. His digital library of videos, documents, and links to studies and resources is available by subscription at It includes over 18 hours of instruction in more than 30 videos (at 10 to 15 minutes each), which you can watch at your desk as your busy day allows. It is also cool because you can skip to the stuff you need today. The cost is $45 a year, which is really not bad for 18 hours of training with no travel costs. Perhaps Jim Camp, the former Traffic Resource Prosecutor from Tennessee, describes having a subscription best: “It’s almost like having John sitting on the other side of your desk whenever you need him.” I agree. Watching these videos (and having your crash reconstruction expert do the same pre-trial) is the next best thing to having John testify for you. It’s a way to make sure both you and your expert are ready.
    I am often reluctant to recommend other folks’ training—but this is an exception. The content and methodology of Kwasnowski’s service fills a hole we have in Texas, and his expertise is second to none. He spent 31 years on the faculty at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, is a certified police trainer in more than 20 states, and has instructed prosecutors and police on more than 330 occasions across the U.S., including at almost every TDCAA Intoxication Manslaughter course. He has reconstructed more than 1,300 crashes and has given sworn testimony on more than 200 occasions. If you have attended my Worst Case Scenario regional program, you have seen him on video—he knows his stuff and can teach it as well. It is a rare thing when any one person has both of those skill sets. And fortunately, the laws of physics are the same across state lines.
    John covers questions that I get regularly in an in-depth manner: “Is the accelerometer better than a drag sled?” “What is ‘crush,’ and how can I get it in to evidence?” “What can I expect from defense experts?” He also covers topics that I haven’t been able to teach lately—my presentations focus on blood testing and drugged driving these days, partly because there is nowhere else I can send Texas prosecutors to learn about them. But for crash reconstruction—another complex topic I’m always fielding questions on—I can send prosecutors to Kwasnowski’s site. Please go take a look.

More valuable videos
While my job takes me around the state to teach on a variety of DWI topics, I can’t be everywhere as often as I am needed. Producing videos on high-demand training topics is a great way to disseminate training while decreasing how many miles I travel. If you have never seen TDCAA’s videos on a variety of DWI topics, please go to the DWI Resources page on There are hours and hours of good stuff in bite-size pieces. The first four videos focus on courtroom testimony, roadside investigations, and breath testing. This fall, we will add instructional videos on blood testing for drugs and using experts in drugged-driving cases. Go check them out.