Tire Marks Forensic Examination: Methods & Purpose

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  • 0:03 Tire Track Evidence
  • 0:28 Purpose
  • 1:19 Methods & Tools
  • 3:36 Examination
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson covers some of the fundamentals regarding tire mark forensic examination. You'll learn the very basics of the purposes, collection, and examination of tire impressions.

Tire Track Evidence

You've probably seen it in movies: tire tracks in the snow, in the mud, and dirt. They're left by a criminal at a crime scene, and an investigator is able to identify the suspect thanks in part to the tire tracks linking the suspect's car with the crime scene. How do investigators go about preserving this kind of evidence, and why is it important? This lesson goes over some of the important fundamentals behind this.


Why bother with tire mark forensic investigation? Well, a lot of crimes from burglaries and robberies to stalking and kidnapping are committed by people who must have a means of getting to what will later be the crime scene. Vehicles provide not only a means by which a criminal gets to the crime scene but also a means by which they can quickly escape from one. The vehicle also gives the criminal some security and secrecy.

As a result, a crime scene, or a nearby area, may have tire marks that can help investigators zero in on a suspect. They might match the tire marks at a crime scene with those coming from a suspect's car. Tire marks thus help investigators eliminate or confirm a suspect. They are not, by themselves, definitive evidence that someone committed a crime; however, they may be a very big piece in the puzzle of solving a crime.

Tire impressions like these can be left at a crime scene and will need to be examined and preserved.
Tire marks

Methods & Tools

Before you can examine tire impression evidence recovered from a crime scene and compare it to tires of a suspect's car, you need to document, recover, and preserve the tire impression evidence. There's a lot more that goes into this than you may think. Here are just some of the many important things to consider.

As soon as you get to the crime scene, you must establish which areas may have tire marks that are of value to you. Keep in mind that oftentimes the important tire-track evidence may be somewhere away from the crime scene area in a location that isn't as obvious as you might think. For instance, a criminal might park several hundred feet away from the house he will be breaking into. Once you've established an area of interest, establish an outer perimeter in order to ensure other people or vehicles don't enter this area.

Next, walk around the outer edges of this area. Staring at the area from one angle isn't enough, because light may reflect differently from one side to the next, rendering tire marks more or less visible at different angles. If doing this at night time, use halogen lamps to recover tire impression evidence.

If you see a lot of tire tracks, then try to delineate fresh versus weathered tracks. The fresh ones might be more likely what you're looking for. Also, pay attention to footwear impressions. This may indicate someone entered or exited a vehicle. Put identifiers next to each impression within the area in order to pinpoint its location. Identifiers are numbered or lettered markers of various sizes and colors that pinpoint key areas in a crime scene.

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