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How to Read a Texas Peace Officer's Accident Crash Report

Per Texas Transportation Code Subchapter D §550.063, all accident reports must be written on a form “approved by the [Texas Department of Transportation] and the Department of Public Safety. A law enforcement officer who is required to file a written accident report shall report on the appropriate form and shall disclose all information required by the form unless the information is not available.” This means that law enforcement officers are required to use a uniform form to report motor vehicle accidents. This would be Form CR-3. Form CR-3, also known as the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report, is an essential document utilized by law enforcement to collect accident data throughout the State of Texas. This form contains vital information such as facts of the crash and details about you and anyone else involved in the collision.

Although this form is used throughout the State of Texas, it may be difficult to read and comprehend. Knowing what information the form should include, and how it is filled out, can be not only informative but also extremely helpful if you are considering pursuing a legal claim after a vehicle collision.  

Essential Parts of a Crash Report in Texas:

Every crash report contains the following necessary parts:

  • Front of the report. The front of the crash report contains much of the most important information about the crash such as the location, the time
  • Back of the report. Although it often contains less information, the back of the report is equally important. It allows the officer to provide a narrative account of what happened before, during, and after the crash. The officer even provides a crash diagram which shows the vehicle positions in the accident. Additionally, this portion includes injuries, hospital transport, criminal charges, and any damage to property other than vehicles.
  • Supplement reports. If it becomes necessary to amend a or to provide additional or supplemental information on a report previously sent to TxDOT, the investigator will submit a new report.
  • Interpreted fields. Interpreted Fields are a select set of fields not included on the CR-3 or collected from law enforcement. These are used for analysis by TxDot and other entities for safety improvements. Once crashes are submitted, each one is manually reviewed and the Interpreted Fields are coded. The narrative, diagram, and location information are key areas for selecting the Interpreted Fields. Detailed narratives and diagrams aid in the collection of these fields.

What information is on the Peace Officer’s Crash Report?

Certain parts of the accident report are relatively simple and easy to read. For instance, you can clearly see the parties’ names and other basic information such as:

  • The date and time of the crash
  • Descriptions of the vehicles involved
  • Driving conditions and driver actions
  • Insurance information and driver’s license data
  • Data required for commercial motor vehicles

How to read codes on a crash report

Police officers on the scene will take note of other crucial information on the report, though you may not take note of it at first glance. That is because police officers will use codes to depict this information. These codes are represented as numbers to illustrate events such as:

  • Roadway conditions
  • Directions of travel and traffic flow information
  • Contributing factors to the accident (such as vehicle defects or driver impairments)
  • Sequence of events
  • Vehicle class and type
  • Weather and light conditions
  • Where the collision occurred on the car or which part of the vehicle was affected by the collision.
  • Injury severity
  • Airbag functionality

By deciphering these codes, you can uncover a great deal of detailed and helpful information about the collision. Information such as how the accident occurred, the type and degree of damage to your vehicle, and your injuries are especially helpful in building your case.

Driver age

Driver age, like many other factors, is tracked by the federal government and the State of Texas. New drivers, particularly those between the ages of 15 and 20, have the highest rate of crash involvement. In fact, over the past 10 years, no other state in the U.S. has reported more fatal car accidents involving young drivers than Texas – about 4,275 from 2010 to 2019 to be more specific. According to Valuepenguin, almost 15% of fatal Texas car, truck, and motorcycle accidents involve young drivers.  Additionally, drivers over 65 are particularly at risk as they have very high rates of driver death as well. Texas actually has the second highest number of drivers who are 65 or older dying in motor vehicle accidents.

Age Codes

The Age category tracks drivers, passengers, and others involved in the accident. Age is recorded in whole numbers between 0 and 130. 0 is used for an infant less than one year old. Normally, code 99 is used to signify an unknown value. However, in the terms of age, a code 99 – Unknown must not be used.

Airbag function

The Air Bag Function section of the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report is an observational value indicating whether an airbag was present, whether it was deployed, and, if so, how it was deployed. This is represented through numerical values as explained below.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that from 1987 to 2017, front airbags have saved 50,457 lives in the United States. However, keep in mind that airbags are supplemental protection and are best utilized with seatbelts. When combined with seatbelts, airbags can reduce the risk of death in frontal crashes by 61 percent as opposed to just 50 percent with seatbelts alone, or a mere 34 percent reduction with airbags alone.

Vehicles are built with pressure and crash sensors to detect when a collision has occurred. The moment a crash begins, sensors start to measure the impact severity. Airbags won’t deploy in low-speed crashes where seatbelts alone should provide sufficient protection. However, many people assume that a collision is more severe if the airbag deploys. According to the NHTSA, an airbag will activate if the impact is similar to hitting a wall at a speed between 8-14 miles per hour or faster at the time of impact. This would be like hitting a parked car at about 16-28 miles per hour. Essentially, airbags only deploy during collisions that are likely to cause injury.

Codes for “Airbag Function”

Each passenger in the vehicle should have a space for an airbag, regardless of whether there is an airbag in that particular seat. Some cars have both side and front airbags. The following general categories are available:

  • 1 = Not Deployed
  • 2 = Deployed, Front
  • 3 = Deployed, Side
  • 4 = Deployed, Rear
  • 5 = Deployed, Multiple
  • 97 = Not Applicable
  • 99 = Unknown

Many people assume that if an airbag deploys, then the car is likely totaled. However, this is not necessarily true. A vehicle is considered “totaled” if the cost of repairing it is more than the cost of replacing it. Often times, an insurance company will also consider a vehicle totaled if the repair cost is a certain percentage of the replacement cost. Because airbags deploy in more severe collisions, there is a higher chance that your car is totaled, though it is not automatic. An airbag can be replaced so that the vehicle is still usable.

The alcohol and/or drug specimen type category

The Alcohol Specimen Type and Drug Specimen Type sections of the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report is a field which states whether the driver was required to take a test to detect alcohol or drugs in their system. A law enforcement officer can give a driver an alcohol and/or drug test at the scene of an accident. These tests are not standard, however, and the officer will only execute them if they suspect that the driver is under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.

An alcohol or drug test may be required in certain situations, such as when the crash involves an employee driving for their employer at the tie of the accident. Federal laws affecting trucking companies require that commercial driver license holders are tested for drugs and alcohol following every collision.

Having this information can be immensely helpful in your personal injury case after a car accident.

What information about alcohol tests is included in an accident report? 

All crash reports record whether or not an alcohol or drug test was given at the scene and, if so, what type of test was given. This is indicated through the following numerical values:

  • 1 = Breath
  • 2 = Blood
  • 3 = Urine
  • 4 = Refused
  • 96 = None
  • 98 = Other (Explained in the Narrative)

The test results will also note the Alcohol Result using standardize numeric blood alcohol content (BAC) (i.e. .08 or 0.129). The officer will explain any additional information regarding the result in the narrative, such as who provided the results (hospital, medical examiner, laboratory), whether the sample was contaminated, lost or the container broken, or whether the results are being withheld by a medical facility, laboratory, or medical examiner.

Even if the test is refused, that information can be helpful information in a drunk driving accident case. Denial of a drug or alcohol test can signal that the driver, who should have been tested, would have had a positive result. However, this is not always the assumption.

Why is drug testing important after a car accident?

If you noticed another driver acting erratically just before or just after the accident, or it seemed like the other driver might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you need to report these actions to the officer on scene. Sometimes, an officer will not ask for a drug or alcohol test if they do not notice any signs indicating the driver was acting strangely. If you provide that information, the officer is more likely to execute such testing. Keep in mind that while you can’t insist that the officer make the driver take the test, you can give the officer enough information to provide them with probable cause to administer a test. The officer will possess more of a keen interest in attaining this type of information provided the proper facts.

Drug Specimen Type codes are noted as the following numerical values:

  • 2 = Blood
  • 3 = Urine
  • 4 = Refused
  • 96 = None
  • 98 = Other (Explained in Narrative)

Drug Test Results are also listed on the code sheet as values:

  • 1 = Positive
  • 2 = Negative
  • 97 = Not Applicable
  • 99 = Unknown

Note that it will be more difficult to show that a driver was drunk or on drugs at the time of the collision for your personal injury case if they are not tested.

The “vehicle damage rating” code

This area of the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report is used to capture the vehicle damage. The damage rating is reported so that some correlation between direction and amount of impact force with the severity of injury can be established and analyzed. The following values are used for Damage Rating:

In most cases:

  • XX-ABC-Y, format where
    • XX is the Direction of Force (1-12)
    • ABC is the Damage Description (2 or 3 letter code)
    • Y is the Damage Severity (0-7).

In special cases:

  • VB-1 = vehicle burned, NOT due to collision
  • VB-7 = vehicle catches fire due to collision
  • TP-0 = top damage
  • VC-0 = undercarriage damage
  • MC-1 = motorcycle, moped, scooter
  • NA = Not Applicable (farm tractor)

Direction of Force (XX) describes the direction from which the vehicle damage was received relative to numbers on a clock. This should be reported with a 1 or 2 digit numeric character ranging from 1-12 and is before the Damage Description.

Damage Description (ABC) describes the area of the vehicle that received damage. This is reported with 2 or 3 digit alphabetical characters.

Damage Severity (Y) describes the severity of the damage received. This ranges on a numeric scale of 0-7 and is after the Damage Description.

Damage Severity

In instances where one vehicle does not suffer damage, but the other does, the vehicle with no damage will receive a damage severity of 0. As there are two spaces, noted as Vehicle Damage Rating 1 and 2, the more severe damage will be noted in Vehicle Damage Rating 1. For example, if a vehicle is damaged in more than one area, then the officer will report the most severe damage rating in Vehicle Damage Rating 1 and the next severe damage rating in Vehicle Damage Rating 2. Any additional damage ratings would be shown in the narrative.

Why is the vehicle damage important?

Keep in mind that most police officers are not forensic experts, and the damage to the vehicle code will always be, to some extent, a subjective assessment. However, their assessment is important to your car accident claim. It can provide support to or undermine how severe you’re saying your damages are. It can also aid in justifying a claim for severe injuries if the insurance company questions them.

Vehicle Inventoried

This field is a simple “Yes” and “No” space which captures whether the officer inventoried the vehicle involved in the crash. A motor vehicle inventory is an administrative measure designed to protect motor vehicles and their contents while in police custody; to protect the agency against claims of lost, stolen, or damaged property and to protect departmental personnel and the public against injury or damaged property due to hazardous materials or substances that may be in the vehicle. While in police custody, the law enforcement agency is responsible for safeguarding the property.

Towed By and To

The Crash Report will also report the name of the towing company which removed the vehicle. The “Towed To” field will note the physical address of the site where the vehicle was towed to. A vehicle will be towed from the scene if it sustained disabling damage from the crash rendering it inoperable or unsafe. Having this information not only keeps record of where your vehicle was towed to, but also may indicate the severity of damage to your vehicle as you are no longer able to operate it.

The “cargo body type” category

The Cargo Body Type section refers to what kind of cargo a vehicle is equipped to carry. Vehicles, especially commercial vehicles, occasionally possess larger portions that can effect the severity of the accident. For example, large semi-trucks with heavy trailers will generally cause more damage compared to an everyday passenger car. The type of cargo also determines the kind of property damage involved as well. For example, a truck delivering new cars will likely have more damage than a garbage truck.

Knowing the specific cargo type of a vehicle can also alter who is involved in your lawsuit after the accident. For example, if a cargo trailer is involved, you may be required to include the owner of the container or cargo inside to move forward with your commercial accident case. Having this information will help us ensure that you have involved all legally responsible parties to recover your damages and injuries.

Cargo body types listed on the crash report:

The Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report uses a variety of codes to state the type of cargo body type. These include:

  1. Bus (seats 9-15 people, including driver)
    A motor vehicle consisting primarily of a transport device, designed to carry more than eight and fewer than sixteen persons.
    1. Bus (seats > 15 people, including driver)

    A motor vehicle, consisting primarily of a transport device, designed to carry sixteen or more persons.

  2. Van/Enclosed Box
    A truck or trailer having an enclosed body. Applies also to refrigerated vans.
    Van/Enclosed Box Truck
    Van/Enclosed Box Truck

Types of accidents involving direction of travel

Many similar accidents occur repeatedly. The direction of travel is especially important to describe these common accidents. For example, consider how the direction of travel would pay a role in the following common collisions:

  • Rear-end collision: Rear-end collisions occur when two vehicles going in the same direction collide with one another. One vehicle strikes the back end of the other. While most of these accidents occur while the vehicles are stopped or in slow motion, that is not always the case. In these cases, the vehicles will be going in the same direction of travel. Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of accidents in the United States.
  • T-bone or cross-traffic accidents: These collisions occur when one car hits the left or right side of another. This is a common occurrence when vehicles are going through an intersection. Often, it is the consequence of a driver ignoring a traffic control device or stop sign. In other cases, it may be because someone turned into an oncoming driver. In these instances, the direction of travel would be the way the vehicle was facing prior to the turn. Usually, the drivers are heading in opposite directions with one traveling north/south and the other going east/west.
  • Merging accident: Distracted drivers may merge unsafely into another lane. As a result of the collision, a driver may be turned around, but the direction of travel will usually be the same. In these situations, the direction of travel is particularly important because the crash scene may not clearly indicate each car’s travel route.
  • Low-speed accidents: Even in a low-speed collision, like those occurring in parking lots, it is important to know the direction of travel in order to determine fault in your accident case.

The direction of travel information is especially important when vehicles cross traffic lanes resulting in serious accidents. Though it may not have travelled that far, a vehicle involved in a collision may end up facing an entirely different direction. In some circumstances, the direction of travel will help you determine how serious the accident may have been.

Ejection

The importance of wearing a seatbelt while driving cannot be overstated. In virtually all circumstances, the chance of survival in a crash is far greater if the occupant is not ejected from the vehicle. Seatbelts help keep you in place and should habitually be equipped each time you get in your vehicle.

The Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report records whether a driver or passenger is ejected from a vehicle with an “ejection” code.

Ejection codes

T severity of injuries to occupants is likely more severe when a collision results in an ejection. Officers will indicate whether or not this has occurred using the following code values:

  • 1 = No (Not ejected)
  • 2 = Yes (Ejected)
  • 3 = Yes, Partial (example: part of the body is ejected outside the door and crushed when the car overturns).
  • 97 = Not Applicable
  • 99 = Unknown

In some rare situations, indicating whether an ejection occurred is improper such as an accident involving a pedestrian or bicyclist. In these cases, code 97, not applicable, would be used.

Sequence of Events

Although there are 4 spaces provided, 4 events may not always occur. If more than 4 events occur leading up to the accident, the officer will choose 4 events which best describe the overall crash. Duplicate sequences may also be used. The first event listed may or may not be the first event resulting in injury and/or damage but merely describe an event leading up to the crash.

Number Codes for Sequence of Events

The codes describing the sequence of events are translated as follows:

  • 1 = Non-Collision: Ran Off Road
  • 2 = Non-Collision: Jackknife
  • 3 = Non-Collision: Overturn Rollover
  • 4 = Non-collision: Downhill Runaway
  • 5 = Non-Collision: Cargo Loss or Shift
  • 6 = Non-Collision: Explosion or Fire
  • 7 = Non-Collision: Separation of Units
  • 8 = Non-Collision: Cross Median / Centerline
  • 9 = Non-Collision: Equipment Failure
  • 10 = Non-Collision: Other
  • 11 = Non-Collision: Unknown
  • 12 = Collision Involving Pedestrian
  • 13 = Collision Involving Motor Vehicle in Transport
  • 14 = Collision Involving Parked Motor Vehicle
  • 15 = Collision Involving Train
  • 16 = Collision Involving Pedal cycle
  • 17 = Collision Involving Animal
  • 18 = Collision Involving Fixed Object
  • 19 = Collision with Work Zone Maintenance Equipment
  • 20 = Collision with Other Movable Object
  • 21 = Collision with Unknown Movable Object
  • 98 = Other (Explained in Narrative)

Understanding these codes is important as they will often be used by insurance companies and the court to ascertain fault. This is just one of the many reasons why getting a police report is crucial to an accident claim process.

First Harmful Event

The First Harmful Event indicates the first injury or damage producing event in a car crash. A motor vehicle in transport must be involved in the First Harmful Event. To determine this information the Vehicle Damage Rating, Damaged Property, Narrative, and Diagram sections of the Crash Report are reviewed by the reporting officer.

Manner of Collision

The Manner of Collision indicates the orientation and movements of the vehicles involved in the First Harmful Event prior to the crash occurring. Similarly to the First Harmful Event, this information is determined by reviewing the Damage Rating, Narrative, and Diagram sections of the crash report.

Object Struck

Object Struck indicates an obstruction in, on, or around a road that a vehicle made contact with. These would be objects like a pot hole in the road, a guardrail, a commercial sign, a fire hydrant, etc.

Collision Involving Fixed Object

Collisions involving fixed objects can, surprisingly, cause significant damages – especially when the accident occurs at high speeds. While most accidents with fixed objects are the fault of the driver who struck the object, this is not always true.

For example, consider a one-vehicle accident which may result in legal liability to another party. If a vehicle is driving through a construction zone where a barrier or median is poorly placed, created curves which are too tight or difficult to navigate, that can result in legal liability for the construction company or, in some circumstances, the city or state. 

Examples of Fixed objects

A fixed object, for the purposes of a crash report, are generally anything not designed to move – even if your collision may cause the object to shift, such as a temporary barrier. The following objects may also be considered fixed:

  • Impact attenuator: Also known as a crash cushion, an impact attenuator is a device intended to reduce damage to structures, vehicles, and motorists resulting from collision and are designed to absorb the kinetic energy of an oncoming vehicle. These include objects like water-filled containers or sand-filled plastic barrels.
  • Bridge rail: These are the rails at the edge of a bridge preventing vehicles from going over the side. They are designed to push a vehicle back on to the road, but can still cause significant damage.
  • Guardrail: A guardrail is a boundary that prevents access to dangerous or off-limits areas to prevent a motorist from straying from the roadway, such as if a car begins careening off the road.
  • Median: The median is a portion of the roadway separating opposite directions of the roadway or local lanes from through travel lanes.
  • Highway traffic signpost: Any traffic sign.
  • Overhead support structures: Overhead signs indicate upcoming intersections, highways, and exits. Striking a support structure means hitting the pole that braces these signs on either side of the highway or interstate.
  • Light support: These are the structures that support traffic signals, light poles.
  • Utility pole: Utility poles are structures like electricity, telecommunication, network, and other utility purpose poles.
  • Cable barrier: Cable barriers, also referred to as guard cables, are a median safety traffic barrier consisting of steel wire ropes mounted on weak posts.
  • Bridge overhead structure: Bridges above roadways may be hit by large trucks.

Other miscellaneous fixed objects may include things like a(n):

  • Embankment
  • Curb
  • Driveway
  • Mailbox
  • Ditch
  • Fence
  • Tree

Collision with object not fixed event

More commonly, accidents involve moveable objects like people or objects in movement. The type of movement will significantly effect the damages and injuries resulting from the crash. For this reason, the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report has specific codes detailing the type of object or person that was struck.