News

July 24, 2017

On-Road Speed Signs Installed in School Zones in London Ontario – Are They A Benefit Or An Additional Hazard? 

An on-road speed sign installed on Tweedsmuir Ave in east London, Ontario. Will it be effective in reducing risk of collisions in school zones?

The City of London decided to spend the money to install on-road speed signs in school zones. The signs indicate that the maximum posted speed within those school zones is reduced to 40 km/h. This is in hope that the signs placed directly in a driver’s field of view will cause drivers to slow down and therefore prevent collisions in these areas where children could be at risk.

The alternative possibility is that the signs may not be effective in altering driver behavior while also increasing the chance that they become a hazard to impact and also become a obstruction to driver visibility.

As an example, in the photo above, the driver of the passenger car must pass by the sign within a curve and lines of sight may be altered and limited. Comparing the top of the sign to the height of the driver’s eyes there will be an obstruction created to the driver’s ability to see ahead to the left-front of the driver. The extent of this obstruction and its significance is unknown.

Similarly, drivers may need to change direction from time-to-time within the road, some time a avoid an additional hazard. The presence of the sign could limit the driver’s ability to chose an avoidance motion. Granted the signs are flexible and bend easily if struck however that would not be immediately understood to drivers who could interpret the impact of such a sign as a threat.

View demonstrating that the force applied by a single finger is able to tip the sign over to a significant angle thus suggesting that any impact by a vehicle would be of minimal significance.

As shown above the signs are easily deflected with the force of only a single finger. The question remains what might happen when winds are very strong and how the signs will bend or vibrate in such conditions.

Traditionally the installation of signs on their own have not been known to change driver’s speeds. This have been observed by Gorski Consulting at numerous sites where average speeds have been calculated from videotaping of traffic. It remains to be seen how this new installation of signage is expected to make a difference in this historical relationship.

July 21, 2017

Another Vehicle Drives Off Cliff Into Lake Erie While A Clear Explanation Does Not Exist

Official news media have reported that another vehicle has driven off a cliff into Lake Erie. As reported by the London Free Press, at approximately 2130 hours on Wednesday, July 20th, 2017 a GMC Safari Van was drove into Lake Erie “near the town of Essex”. The problem is that the Town of Essex is about 19 kilometres away from Lake Erie and it makes it difficult to understand how that distance can be termed “near” anything.

A quote from the Essex County OPP detachment commander Glen Millar “applauded the quick thinking of this officers”. Millar reportedly stated “The immediate response by three Essex County OPP members to enter into Lake Erie to rescue this individual is significant and speaks to their professionalism”. Given that the response was “immediate” it would imply that the police were present shortly after the vehicle entered the water though it was not reported how the police were notified of the vehicle’s plunge or how the coincidence occurred that they were at the location where the vehicle plunged off the cliff.

It is less than a month ago that on June 23, 2017 another vehicle plunged off a cliff south of Aylmer, Ontario shortly after police began to pursue it. In that incident the official news media also reported an unusual time-line for how events unfolded. At 1630 police began to follow the vehicle near the intersection of Springfield Road and Nova Scotia Line which was only about 1.3 kilometres away from where the vehicle eventually drove off the cliff. Yet at 1643 hours the officer attempted to stop the vehicle when he observed that a package had been tossed from the vehicle. The officer reportedly pick-up the package and then was informed by a witness that the vehicle had driven off the cliff. There was this 13 minute delay between 1630 and 1643 hours which is puzzling since it is not clear where  the vehicles could have been as both were reportedly 1.3 kilometres away from the cliff at 1630 hours. At a speed of 80 km/h, or 22.2 metres per second, it would take just over 58 seconds to travel from the noted intersection to the cliff. In this case , the driver of the vehicle was deceased.

As everyone relies on the official news media to get a clear understanding of how these events actually unfolded this confusion about locations and times lines is not helpful.

 July 20, 2017

Observed Average Speeds On Highway 401 – One Ingredient of a Deadly Recipe

View of Highway 401 near Elgin Road in Middlesex County where an observational study was conducted to estimate the average speed of vehicles travelling in the median (fast) lane.

Anyone who has travelled along some parts of the busiest expressway in Canada will recognize that the average speed of vehicles on Highway 401 is higher than the posted speed. But how much faster? Gorski Consulting conducted an observational study and has some results in the latest article posted to the Articles page of this website.

July 18, 2017

Motorcycle Collisions “Demonstrate” A Dangerous Problem – But To Whom?

There as been a recent rash of serious and fatal motorcycle collisions in South-Western Ontario. This is not totally unexpected as the summer season has been historically known for such increases. However the numbers and the situations in which they occur demonstrates the danger that has been ever present.

A little more than two weeks ago a motorcyclist was killed on Elgin Road near Dorchester Ontario without any specific information with respect to how it occurred. The lack of an indication by official news media that another vehicle was involved indicates that this was a single vehicle incident, possibly with the involvement of a loss-of-control as the motorcycle was reported to be driven into a ditch. It is highly likely that this description does not indicate what actually occurred.

On July 2, 2017 a motorcyclist was injured in a collision at the intersection of Clarke Road and Trafalgar Street in east London. Again no details were reported except that police were looking for a witness who was the driver of an orange SUV that was waiting to turn onto Clarke Road at the time of the crash. Again this commentery suggests that the motorcycle was not involved in an actual impact with a second vehicle how that was not explained.

On July 3, 2017, a motorcyclist was killed when he drove into a house that the T-intersection of Elgin and Calvin Streets in east London. Again, another unexplained occurrence as there was a stop sign only a short distance away along the motorcyclist’s path and one would wonder how a speed high enough to kill a rider could be attained the short distance and, secondly, how a second stop sign at the actual intersection could also have been driven through without stopping.  Yet, only a block away, a stop sign was present that was fully engulfed in foliage and completely covered from view. None of these details were reported.

In the early morning hours of July 17, 2017 a motorcyclist was killed on Ridout Street in central south London when he struck a utility pole near Elmwood Ave. Again no explanation was provided as to how this incident occurred.

A few hours later, on the evening of July 17, 2017, a motorcyclist sustained serious injuries when his bike left the roadway and struck a ditch on Adelaide Street between Fourteen and Fifteen Mile Roads, just north of London.

All these incidents have been reported as having occurred but almost no information has been provided as to the causal factors or circumstances that led to those crashes. This demonstrates how little information is passed on to the public, and specifically to other motorcyclists. Yet, it is expected that somehow these tragedies will be corrected through generalized propaganda about the dangers of motorcycle riding.

July 12, 2017

Critical Injuries to Driver Upon Impact With Building in East London – A Lack of Reporting of the Roadway Defects

This night-time view of the collision site on Shelborne Street in London, Ontario summarizes the roadway defects that were found by Gorski Consulting.

Official news media reported that at approximately 0130 hours on Monday, July 10, 2017 a van was southbound on Shelborne Street in London when it crashed into a building at a sharp left curve. The unidentified driver was reported to sustain critical injuries.

Gorski Consulting attended the collision site on the afternoon of July 10th to examine what happened. It became clear that there was no mandatory signage on approach to the curve. Depending on the characteristics of the curve the required signage would vary however no signage existed what-so-ever. Furthermore the painted roadway centre-line was erased at the precise location where it was required to guide drivers around the curve. Finally, examination of overhead lighting with respect to the position of the trees indicated that the overhead lighting would be blocked by those trees and therefore the curve would be left in darkness. To confirm this fact Gorski Consulting re-attended after sunset to document the extent of the problems.

At approximately 2230 hours we returned to the site to explore the lighting conditions. The site photo above provides a summary of the problems that were observed during this examination. The photo below provides some further clarification of the issues. The closest street lamp to the curve was blocked from illuminating the curve by a tree located on the east boulevard south of the street lamp, as noted in the photo below.

Southward view from the east sidewalk.

The photo below provides a further detailing of the lighting problem. The street light is located behind the camera whereas we can see the tree in the foreground and we can see how the illumination from the lamp is blocked by that tree thus creating darkness in the curve in the background.

Closer view of the tree blocking the illumination of the curve.

The photo below provides another view of the lighting problem while positioned looking south at the beginning of the curve. It can be seen how the illumination from the street lamp has been blocked by the tree thus producing the dark shadow over the curve. In the background we have noted where the vehicle struck the curb and the van subsequently struck the building further in the background.

View looking south at the curve and showing the extend of the darkness.

Furthermore, a lighting assessment was conducted at about 2230 hours and it was found that illumination of the roadway beneath the lamp standard just north of the curve was 7 lux which is not ideal, however readings taken at the curb where the vehicle exited the roadway were below the scale of the lightmeter meaning that the location was in extreme darkness.

All these are critical failures in provision of a safe road while the public has not been informed of any of these findings. The two local news outlets (the London Free Press and CTV News) have not posted any concerns with the roadway. The London Free Press merely mentioned the comment of a local resident that “motorists often drive too fast around the curve”.

In the CTV News coverage the same resident was quoted however an additional sentence was added: “I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for a while”. Yet the actual videotape of the resident’s comments included a further comment that was excluded from the CTV written article. In the videotape the resident is heard saying “I don’t think there’s signs up saying to slow down…” That additional comment is critical because it demonstrates that even an untrained individual recognized that signage was not present yet that message was not brought forth in the official news coverage.

Nothing has been reported with respect to the police investigation other than that no charges have yet been laid and that the van was not stolen.

A curious observation was noted in the London Free Press article where the resident observed that the driver “was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed to a stretcher before being taken away in an ambulance”. Police were then quoted as saying that “handcuffs are sometimes used as a safety precaution. On occasion when people awaken in situations where they’ve regained consciousness, they might not be aware of their surroundings”. It would seem odd that the ambulance personnel would require that police use police handcuffs to secure an injured party as if those ambulance personnel did not possess securing belts of their own as part of their rescue equipment. Certainly such belts have long been used by emergency personnel because they are aware that an injured party could potentially fall out of a stretcher.

While it is still early in the process, it needs to be stressed that the general public has not been made aware of the roadway defects on Shelborne Street and that is unacceptable. Answers need to be provided by the City of London as to how these roadway defects came to fall beneath its radar. This is particularly so because in November, 2014 Gorski Consulting warned the City of a similar situation at a sharp curve of Proudfoot Lane and Beaverbrook Road. In that occasion a resident had complained to the City that the sharp curve was dangerous as vehicles were likely to lose control and strike him as he walked daily along the curve’s sidewalk. A presentative of the City’s Transportation department was quoted in the news coverage saying: “There is nothing wrong with the road in question, not the design and not the high traffic volume. There is proper signage that drivers should follow”. Testing by Gorski Consulting found that indeed there was something wrong. The sharp curve sign was posted with a Speed Advisory tab  below it advising that drivers travel at 30 km/h around the curve. Our testing revealed that the lateral acceleration experienced by a vehicle travelling at 30 km/h around the curve was much too high and unacceptable. While the results of this testing were submitted to the City’s Civic Works Committee, the correspondence was never posted to the Committee’s public agenda and therefore was never brought to the public’s attention. Subsequently the City installed speed bumps without any further comment. Thus there is a historical pattern of the City failing to disclose to its citizens that defective roads exist and that the City could be held liable for those defects.

As in the case of the collision on Shelborne Street, if the critically injured young driver has sustained a life-altering injury it could mean a claim against the City that could surpass 1 million dollars even if only for Contributory Negligence. Whether in fact the young driver was also speeding and also contributed to the circumstances has not yet been revealed and those details may never reach the public. The point is that representatives of the City, whether they are politicians or senior staff, have a reason to be concerned and have a reason not to reveal to the public the difficulty that the City could be potentially placed if a civil suit is launched against it. Given that London’s City Police are paid from the City’s budget there is a real concern that such a conflict of interest could turn the police investigation in an improper direction and the details of the road defects might not be revealed.

Yet, in a democratic society, elected officials are theoretically responsible to their electorate to inform them of their actions or inactions particularly when the lives of innocent citizens are involved. When warnings such as the one posted by Gorski Consulting in November, 2014 are not brought to the public’s attention potential inappropriate actions by the City’s politicians and its staff are not properly dealt with resulting in a failure to correct those problems. What is known is that the roadway defects on Shelborne Street existed at the time of the July 10th, 2017. What is not known is why/how these defects were not detected. When the above-quoted city staffer claimed that the curve at Proudfoot and Beaverbrook was properly designed/signed/maintained it is not known to us how the Civic Works Committee reacted when Gorski Consulting provided the results of our testing which conflicted with that claim. An obvious approach of the Committee should have been to explore the difference of opinion and to determine whose information was correct. If these decisions were carried out and a result was reached the Civic Works Committee should have performed this in a public manner, not only for the benefit of Gorski Consulting being informed, but that the general public also be informed. With the revelation that the roadway defects at Shelborne Street likely existed for quite some time it suggests that the Civil Works Committee did not request that City staff delve further in the safety conditions of sharp curves in the City. What other conclusion can be drawn? However there is a lack of transparency that leaves Gorski Consulting questioning what transpired and when.

On July 11, 2017, Gorski Consulting made an e-mailed contact with the secretary of the Civic Works Committee with a request of the Committee to clarify its actions/inactions with respect to our request of November, 2014 and why the noted roadway defects on Shelborne Street were not corrected before the collision of July 10th. In response the secretary informed us that our request was not a “political matter but more an administrative matter” and that our request could be passed onto the City’s Administrative staff. In our rebuttal we emphasized that indeed our request was political and directed to the Civil Works Committee, not to administrative staff. Gorski Consulting was and is aware that the administrative staff appeared to have a conflicting view as to the safety of curves as evidenced by their response in 2014. The question was with respect to the Civic Works Committee and how they reacted to this conflict of opinion and what steps, in any, were taken if the opinion of its staff members was deemed incorrect. The importance of bringing our request to the Committee was that this was expected to be available to the general public as it should be. In contrast the secretary’s approach of sending our request to the administrative staff meant that our inquiry and the issues surrounding the safety of curves in London would not reach the public similar to the correspondence of Gorski Consulting in November 2014 that also did not reach the public. Up to this date the official news media have failed to report the detects that we have highlighted even though we copied our reputtal to the secretary to them. Similarly the public has not been informed of the results of the police investigation which should also have revealed the roadway defects that existed. It is important that the facts of this matter not be covered up and addressed publicly.

June 26, 2017

A Study of the Reported Facts Surrounding A Vehicle Driven Off A Cliff During A Police Pursuit in Elgin County Ontario

The officially-reported facts of how a vehicle came to be driven off a cliff into Lake Erie on the afternoon of Friday, June 23, 2017 were described by official news media as follows:

“About 4:30 p.m. Friday, an Elgin County OPP officer began following a vehicle on Springfield Road near Nova Scotia Line. At 4:43 p.m. the officer tried to stop the vehicle. At that point, someone threw a package out the window. The officer stopped to get the package, then searched for the car. A civilian told the officer the vehicle had been driven off the cliff on Springfield Road…”

To appreciate the content of these facts we need to review  the area in which these events reportedly occurred. The GoogleMaps view below shows the general area of the City of St Thomas in the upper left, the Town of Aylmer in the upper middle and the north shore of Lake Erie at the bottom.

General area of South-Western Ontario where the events occurred. In the top left corner of the view is the City of St. Thomas and in the upper middle is the smaller Town of Aylmer. Lake Erie runs along the bottom of the view.

In the view above, Springfield Road is labelled as Highway 40 and runs north/south (up/down) just the east (right) of the Town of Aylmer. One can see that Springfield Road does not appear to reach the short of Lake Erie because it becomes a more secondary road which is gravel-covered thus Google does not display this extension in this larger view.

The view below takes us to a closer view of the area where Springfield Road Crosses Nova Scotia Line at the top and we can see the north shore of Lake Erie at the bottom.

Closer view of the site showing the crossing of Nova Scotia Line at the top and the north shore of Lake Erie below.

One can see that Springfield Road comes to an end just before reaching the north shore of Lake Erie. Note that a measurement taken from Nova Scotia Line indicates that the distance of that intersection to the south terminus of Springfield Road is about 1.3 kilometres. At a speed of 80 km/h (22.2 metres per second) that 1.3 kilometres can be travelled in about 58 seconds whereas at 200 km/h (55.5 metres per second) it can be travelled in about 23.4 seconds.

Next, the view below shows a closer view of the location where Springfield Road ends before reaching the shore of Lake Erie. The view shows the cliff at the lakeshore. It also shows a plowed farm field that lies between the end of the road and the cliff. There appears to be a single residence located on the west side of the terminus of the road.

View of the area where Springfield Road ends before reaching the north shore of Lake Erie.

We can study a further distance as shown below, from the south end of Springfield Road to the edge of the cliff at Lake Erie. That distance is about 75 metres.

View showing the distance from the south end of Springfield Road to the edge of the cliff at Lake Erie.

Furthermore we can examine the horizontal distance taken up by the cliff itself, from the top of the cliff to water’s edge.  As noted below the distance is about 45 metres.

View of the cliff at the general location where the vehicle reportedly exited into the water of Lake Erie.

So let us summarize the distances. From the point where the vehicle passes through the intersection at Nova Scotia Line it travels about 1.3 kilometres to the end of the road, it then traverses an area of a farm field of about 75 metres, and then it travels a horizontal distance of 45 metres to the water’s edge.

Now let us review the officially-reported information, line by line. The first sentence: “About 4:30 p.m. Friday, an Elgin County OPP officer began following a vehicle on Springfield Road near Nova Scotia Line“.

The word “on” implies that the vehicle, or the police cruiser, or both, were on Springfield Road at the time of 4:30 p.m. The word “began” would imply that this is where the “following” began and that before that time and location the following had not yet occurred.

So let us consider a reasonable scenario. The vehicle is southbound on Springfield Road and is approaching the intersection with Nova Scotia Line. Behind this vehicle, at some unknown distance, is the Elgin County police cruiser that begins to follow the vehicle. This precise moment is at 4:30 p.m. Let us also consider, for a moment, that the vehicles are travelling at highway speed, say 80 km/h, or 22 metres per second.

The next line reads “At 4:43 p.m. the officer tried to stop the vehicle”. This is where the information starts to break apart with respect to our assumed scenario. The difference in time between 4:30 p.m. and 4:43 p.m. is 13 minutes. What happened in that time of 13 minutes?

Recall that our scenario placed both vehicles “near” the intersection of Springfield Road and Nova Scotia Line at 4:30 p.m. and this was went the OPP officer began to follow the vehicle. This intersection is just slightly more than 1.3 kilometres from the cliff. At 80 km/h (22.2 metres per second) the vehicle would reach the end of the road in about 58 seconds, as noted earlier. What was going on with the remaining 12 minutes?

Perhaps we misunderstood the information. Perhaps the word “near” used in the phrase “…began following a vehicle on Springfield Road near Nova Scotia Line” meant something much further than we assumed and that it took about 12 minutes to reach the vicinity of the intersection. However, how far would the vehicles have to be from the intersection so that, in 12 minutes, they reached that intersection? Well, at 80 km/h and 22.2 metres per second, the 12 minutes is equal to 720 seconds. So at a speed of 22.2 metres per second the vehicles would travel about 15,984 metres or almost 16 kilometres! To put that in perspective, the figure below shows the distance being measured from the noted intersection to the nearby town of Aylmer which is about 11.5 kilometres away as the crow flies. So the two vehicles would have to have been at a location of the Town of Aylmer when the OPP officer began to follow the vehicle in order that, 13 minutes later, they could arrive at the intersection and the OPP officer would then decide to pull the vehicle over. Such  a distance cannot logically mean “near the intersection”.

This view shows the distance being measured from the intersection of Springfield and Nova Scotia Line to the Town of Aylmer which is about 10 kilometers away.

But let us move on to the next sentence: “At that point, someone threw a package out the car’s window”.

Presumably, the OPP officer would have to be close enough to the vehicle to be able to see a package being thrown out. So the officer would have to be within viewing range, presumably on Springfield Road. And this action would have to occur before the vehicle moved onto the gravel portion of the road south of Nova Scotia Line.

The figure below shows the view looking south along Springfield Road toward the intersection of Nova Scotia Line from about 300 metres north. The road is essentially straight and level.

GoogleMaps view looking south along Springfield Road toward its intersection with Nova Scotia Line.

The figure below shows another southward view along Springfield Road, this time from the intersection with Nova Scotia Line. In the background it can be seen how the road becomes a gravel surface south of the intersection.

View looking south along Springfield Road from the intersection with Nova Scotia Line.

What is “viewing range” may depend on the type or size of the object and contrast with respect to the background.

As one is further away an object appears smaller in one’s field of view. As an example, a large van positioned about 400 metres from an observer would only be about 5 centimetres (2 inches) tall when drawn on a sheet of paper and viewed at a distance of 10 metres (ten large steps). Thus observing a small object being thrown out of a window at a distance of 400 metres or more would be difficult to detect.

We then examine the next sentence: “The officer stopped to get the package, then searched for the car”.

If the OPP officer was close enough to observe something being thrown out of the vehicle then the opposite could also hold true: that the driver of the vehicle was able to see the police cruiser and perhaps attempted to flee for that reason. However, if the vehicle was close to the intersection of Nova Scotia Line when the package was dropped one could presume that the vehicle then travelled south along Springfield Road toward the south terminus of that road. Meanwhile it would seem unusual that the OPP officer would not be familiar enough with the patrol area to not recognize that Springfield Road terminated about 1.3 kilometres south of the intersection. Thus it would not seem suprizing regarding where that fleeing vehicle would be and it should have been a relatively easy task for the Officer to continue to travel southward toward the terminus of the road as there was no other direction that the fleeing vehicle could go. The wording that the Officer had to commence to “search”|for the vehicle seems rather inappropriate.

The final sentence in the statement read: “A civilian told the officer the vehicle had been driven off the cliff on Springfield Road, just east of Port Bruce, and into the lake”.

Presumably, after the officer had picked up and examined the package he continued to proceed southward along Springfield Road. There would be a limited number of persons who could actually observe the vehicle travelling over the cliff and the most likely person would likely have some relationship to the single residence near the terminus of the road.

The intriguing part of the reported facts is that the vehicle was found submerged in the water of the lake. This suggests that the motion of the vehicle over the cliff resulted in the vehicle progressing into a deeper portion water than simply at its edge. This is intriguing because of the long horizontal distance that the vehicle would have to travel from the edge of the cliff to the relatively deeper water where it could be submerged. In one of the figures shown earlier in this article we noted that the horizontal distance from the edge of the cliff to the edge of the water was about 45 metres. Speed calculations can be made from this vertical and horizontal motion using free flight trajectory analysis.

Free flight trajectory analysis studies the result when a vehicle travelling generally along the horizontal plane of the earth is  projected into the air and is no longer in contact with that plane. The earth’s gravitational pull draws the vehicle down toward the centre of the earth until it meets up with the opposing structure (usually ground) again. The time/distance that the vehicle remains projected in the air is dependent on its speed and angle of projection. Various authors have developed formulae which are used by accident reconstructionists to determine the initial speed at the instance of projection.

In a 1981 treatise by members of the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team (“Vehicle Dynamics: Free Flight Trajectory Analysis (A. German, et. al.) the authors presented some graphs illustrating the path of projected vehicles based on their speed and projection angle. The figure below shows such a graph for a zero projection angle, meaning that the initial angle of take off is parallel to the horizontal surface of the earth.

A graphical representation of free flight trajectory analysis (A. German, 1981)

Along the vertical scale at the left is the vertical drop in metres. Along the horizontal scale at the top is the horizontal distance (R (m)) that the vehicle was found to travel in the air before returning to make contact with the ground. The horizontal scale along the bottom is the initial velocity (speed) of the vehicle upon its instant of projection into the air.

In our present case we do not know the landing point nor do we know where the vehicle came to rest after falling from the cliff into Lake Erie. However these facts will undoubtedly be known to the police investigators. As an example, if our vehicle travelled horizontally 45 metres while falling to landing point 8 metres (@ 26 feet) then the vehicle’s speed would be in the approximate range of 130 km/h. Regardless of this calculated value, the fact that the vehicle ended up in a deeper portion of water would suggest a very substantial take-off speed at the top of the cliff.

While such a high speed may not seem unusual during a police chase it must be remembered that  this is the speed at the edge of the cliff. Why was this vehicle still travelling very fast at this location? The figure below shows the view in the last few metres as a vehicle approaches the terminus of the road before the edge of the cliff.

View looking south toward the south terminus of Springfield Road – where is the signage that indicates that the roadway ends!

The above view is from about 140 metres north of the cliff. At about this location the driver should be able to recognize that the road ends as there will no longer be any gravel visible and the farm field should be evident. If the driver was travelling at 130 km/h, or about 36 metres per second, we could estimate that it could take him an additional two seconds, or 72 metres, to detect the end of the road and determine that he was entering the farm field (even if he could not detect that he was approaching the cliff). This could mean that maximum braking could commence as the vehicle approached the edge of the farm field at a distance of about 75 metres away from the cliff edge.

The characteristics of the farm field are unknown as it might contain a crop, have been recently plowed or might have remained untouched and bare. Most likely the surface would be uneven and soft suggesting that the sliding friction could be quite high if the vehicle’s wheels had to plow through some of the soft earth. A range of deceleration of f=.7 would not be an unusual starting point for the estimated friction. Using this over the potential braking distance of 75 metres would indicate that the vehicle could have lost about 115 km/h of speed before reaching the cliff edge. So was the vehicle travelling much faster as it approached the end the road than its substantial speed at the edge of the cliff? Unfortunately we have not been present at the site of the collision to evaluate that physical evidence.

However, this poses an additional question: Where is the roadway signage that would be expected to indicate that this was a dead-end? Required signage would include a checkerbroad sign along with signage on approach to the terminus indicating that the road was coming to an end. No such signage appears to exist. Now the additional complication comes to fore in that the presence of such signage might have alerted the driver and he might have braked and perhaps avoided going over the cliff. Certainly a checkerboard sign could easily be detected from a long distance on approach to the end of the road thus even a very high speed could be aborted with an additional 75 metres beyond the sign to the cliff edge.

So will this lack of signage ever be revealed by police or news media? From our previous experience likely not.

Overall, the information provided by the official news media, and presumably taken from the information released by police and the SIU, is confusing at best. It does not seem to provide an accurate account of how the events unfolded leading to this tragedy. The SIU is requesting information from potential witnesses however they also need to examine the accuracy of the information they release as this has an effect on the image they present to the public. There have been numerous previous complaints by the public that the SIU is too restrictive in releasing information about their investigations and their outcomes. Here is another indication that their methods of communicating with the public, as well as those of the investigating police, need to be improved.

Reported Child Fatalities in Frontal Impact to Mercedes on Winston Churchill Blvd  In Mississauga Need Further Investigation

Confusion in the early hours after a catastrophic event can be understandable therefore the reports by official news media regarding child deaths in a Mercedes collision on Winston Churchill Blvd in Mississauga need to be taken with caution.

In an article published by the CTV News Toronto office at 0808 hours this morning, 2 children who were passengers in a Mercedes passenger car were killed when a Mazda car went out of control and slid into the path of the Mercedes last evening at approximately 2300 hours on Winston Churchill Blvd near the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) in Mississauga.

This general collision scenario has been played out numerous times where the vehicle that goes out of control slides sideways into the path of a vehicle that is travelling straight ahead. The problem is that, in the vast majority of those situations it is the occupants of the loss-of-control vehicle that sustain the greatest injury. This should seem obvious because of the additional protection provided by the front structure of a car versus the lack of such protection in the side of the loss-of-control vehicle. What is of additional concern is that the fatalities occurred to children that should have been properly restrained by child seats and booster cushions. Children restrained in such proper devices are even more protected than any other occupant in a frontal impact. Thus these reported findings are very unusual.

Furthermore the on-site view shown below shows the massive disintegration of the loss-of-control vehicle, which should be the Mazda, whereas the Mercedes on the right side of the view, has sustained moderate frontal damage with no obvious structural intrusion.

On-site view of the disintegration of the Mazda yet the Mercedes where the reported child fatalities occurred appears relatively intact.

The unusual findings are exemplified further in the view of the vehicle (Mercedes?) below that was struck in the front end and where the child fatalities were located. Clearly the extent of frontal crush has not produced any obvious structural intrusion and therefore occupants seated in the rear of the vehicle should have survived.

This photo of the supposed Mercedes where the fatally injured children were passengers shows a lack of damage that could explain those fatal injuries.

While it is early in the process and problems in the correct reporting of facts are likely to exist, the tragic results should not be swept under the carpet and a proper, objective investigation open to the public should be conducted.

(Additions to be made shortly)

June 23, 2017

150th Year of Oh Canada  – Where “Peac” Has Become A Four-Letter Dirty Little Word

Congratulations fellow Canadians on our 150th anniversary of being ourselves.

It was only a short time ago that many celebrated 100 years when we were “1, 2, 3 Canadians, strong and free”. In 1967 the war in Vietnam was raging and there were still many Canadians who had a clear memory of the Second World War, and some who also remembered the “War to end all wars”. As Canadians we were fully entrenched in the United Nations and stood bravely between many angry combatants. Young people marched through the streets raising their fingers in peace signs. Hippies and draft dodgers believing that the only domino effect in south-east Asia was that, once you sent in troops you had to send in more troops, and then you had to send in more troops. That was the climate of our 100th anniversary.

Today the news and celebrations are vastly different. On the approach to our July 1st Confederation there was widespread celebration with respect to a tremendous Canadian achievement: A marksman was able to shoot down an ISIS militant from a distance of 3540 metres. The CBC News reported “The shot surpasses the previous record held by a British soldier…”. A marvelous achievement for Canada. And if we are not impressed then we do not support our troops and do not appreciate that all this is needed to keep ourselves safe.

At Gorski Consulting we have been the observers of 36 years of the bloody hell of motor vehicle collisions. Mostly caused by the tumblers matching on life’s grambling machine but also caused by some foolishness, belief in invincibility and lack of respect for the dangerous transfer of kinetic energy onto our human bodies. We have never gone to war, never had reason to point a weapon at any living creature, nor understood the reason for other’s uncontrolled appetite for power and control. While providing unbiased analysis of how or why someone died we have also been witnesses to the pain and suffering of the families and friends left behind. Knowing that this emotion cannot allow us to be swayed in providing that objective result, regardless of how painful that news may be to those affected by it. We know very well how emotion and loss can twist persons to say and believe all sorts of irrational things. Much like the loss of war stirs up emotions, anger and vigilante justice.

In our 150th anniversary we and so many nations around us, have begun to turn the steering wheel toward becoming volatile, less-reasoned creatures. Peace has become a dirty word. In fact, the additional “e” has become redundant and we should simply spell it as “Peac”: the four-letter word that it has become.

We should stand proudly by our greatest citizens such as a member of our first nations: Buffy Saint Marie. She wrote a song a long time ago in the time of our 100th Anniversary called “The Universal Soldier”. There she gave her opinion that, if the universal soldier did not follow the commands to go to war then war would be deflated like a dead balloon. There will always be deranged leaders but they only gain importance when they have a sufficient following of the masses who have lost their ability to think rationally. It was the assassination of a single Grand Duke in the Balkans that led to the First World War where millions of universal soldiers charged each other to gain a fews yards land. Land that now accompanies them with a million poppies.

We cannot remain passive in all instances but 150 years in a lot older than the 4-year-old playing “guns” in the family backyard. When we are asked to be impressed by the killing of another human being from a distance of 3540 metres we should be certain that the ultimate goal is truly for our safety and peace for us all.

Peace is what we wish to all on this 150th Confereration Day. May you search for it and find it, pass it on to other nations and to your children and grand-children.

June 19, 2017

Automobiles As Instruments of Terror – The Reality Is Not Pretty or Easy

While the public is used to reports of the insane occurrences of innocent persons being killed through various bombings, chemical warfare and more legitimate methods of mass murder, the use of the automobile for that purpose has gained in recent popularity and media attention. In recent days in June of 2017 there have been a number of “successful” actions of mowing down innocent pedestrians by way of the common automobile. Setting aside the twisted political logic of ending the life of someone who may have nothing to do with anything, the official response has been that these actions will be defeated and the public should resolvedly carry on.

From what we have observed belief in the notion that these executions will be stopped is as useful as dreaming of the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. While the Fairy and Santa may have their useful purposes in the lives of 4-year-olds most grown ups have long gone past that, as we should also do in believing that stopping automotive terrorists is a simple solution. There is simply no simple solution.

Modern society has surrounded itself with the automobile like it has with the computer. If either of these are somehow taken away our society will crumble. Yet, essentially anyone can have access to a 4000 pound weapon which can made to steer where ever and travel at exceptionally high speeds. As the “inventor” of the internet put it “there is an inconvenient truth” about automotive terrorist as there is with climate change. The emperor is never pleased with being told that he is not wearing any clothes thus we do not expect our comments to be of large popularity.

While we do not have a simple solution we also believe that a grown up discussion about the reality is in order.

June 18, 2017

Zipper Merging – Dangerous Advice From Those Who Do Not Understand Traffic Safety

Waiting for the last few seconds or last few metres before merging out of a closed lane is a dangerous action.

While the term “Zipper Merge” has caught the public’s attention little questioning has been carried forward regarding this latest advised method of merging on approach to a closed lane.

The proponents of the Zipper Merge state that it is a more efficient use of the roadway leading to a closed lane if drivers populate the closed lane until the very edge where they have no option but merge. The unusual logic is supportive of the reasoning that more vehicles will be squeezed onto the roadway and thereby make a more efficient use rather then creating a longer line of traffic within only a single lane.

While such logic would appear to make some sense from the desk of a bean counting theorist the practical reality is that such merging at the very last instant is extremely dangerous and fails to recognize that our system of roadways is designed to create sufficient time and distance for drivers to react to a closed lane because, from a safety viewpoint, time and distance is required. Not all traffic will approach a closed lane at slow speed. Nor will the visibility be ideal. In fact, in the presence of many large and tall vehicles visibility of signage and the location of the lane closure could be restricted. This requires that drivers merge into the open lane before an emergency situation is created.

In the presence of tall and wide vehicles visibility can be greatly diminished such that many road signs and road markers may become invisible to drivers approaching a closed lane. It becomes essential that drivers exit a closed lane early enough before an emergency situation is created.

Conflicts amongst drivers already exist as some continue to use the unpopulated lane as a way to get ahead of traffic. This generally infuriates those who sit in line and watch others pass them by. This conflict leads to numerous road rage incidents with little involvement by either police or those who are responsible for a lane closure.

The proposed Zipper Merge will not improve this conflict. Indeed problem drivers will continue to attempt to take this minute and ridiculous advantage by racing toward the end of the closed lane and then attempting to squeeze in the last minute. While such actions could be of minimal effect when speeds are slow, those same actions could be life-threatening when performed at higher speeds. Attempting to squeeze into a lane at the last instance means that, when a miscalculation occurs there will be instances where the resulting collision could be serious.

The proponents of the Zipper Merge seem to misunderstand that not all traffic is of the same character and when large trucks are mixed with small car dangerous  situations can occur. Drivers of typical road tractors are unable to detect small  vehicles located near the right front wheel and right door of the tractor. But this is precisely where smaller vehicles will be located when they squeeze into the truck driver’s lane. Again, the resulting collision at low speed might be minor between similar-sized vehicles but not so when a massive truck strikes a small car. The magnitude of the problem is increased when speeds are increased.

In the view of Gorski Consulting, the advice that the Zipper Merge should be an accepted method of traffic movement at a closed lane is dangerous and drivers should be extra-cautious during this time when such logic appears to be spreading through official circles. Instead more monitoring of traffic is required on the approach to a closed lane in the form of video to gather incidents of dangerous behavior that can be prosecuted. Furthermore there has to be more done by those responsible for road closures to monitor the developing conditions particularly as traffic back ups become longer and signage is no longer effective in providing advance warning of possible sharp reductions in the high speed of traffic on major expressways.

June 17, 2017

Supreme Court of Canada Jordan Ruling Demonstrates Fragility of Justice

The Supreme Court of Canada enforced time-lines for relays in bringing matters to trial in its Jordan ruling. While  controversial, this ruling was re-affirmed in the sister-ruling, Cody, where again the Supreme Court made it clear that it should not take more than 18 months from the laying of charges to the completion of a trial in Provincial Court and 30 months for matters in Superior Court. Various court officials have expressed concern that these strict time-lines could cause serious matters from being dealt with. Yet the details suggest that lower court judges still have the discretion to examine individual cases and determine whether delays offending an accused’s rights are greater than society’s need to deal with a potentially dangerous criminal’s actions.

Beyond this turmoil, the situation has demonstrated the fragility of the bedrock upon which the Canadian justice system must stand. Legal entities which the Supreme Court refers to as “actors” may be viewed from the outside as some irrelevant screenplay writers rather than understanding that these arguments have serious consequences to a smaller community of defendants and victims. Some claim that the new timelines are unfair while not discussing the under-lying reasons why court delays exist. Prosecutors say there are not enough resources while political ministers claim that they are moving quickly to increase those resources. In this new world of “Trumpian false news” no one can really determine where the truth lies, as indeed, some times the truth does lie.

June 14, 2017

Toxic Chemical Rollover Explained As “Mechanical Issue” Is Insufficient

This truck rolled over the concrete median barrier of the QEW near St Catharines, Ontario resulting in a potentially highly dangerous toxic chemical leak.

Once again the explanation provided for the rollover of a truck carrying a highly dangerous, toxic chemical has been insufficient.

News media reported that at approximately 1500 hours on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, a tractor-trailer rolled over the concrete median barrier of the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) near St Catharines, Ontario. The photo above shows the status of the truck with the trailer lying on its side on the opposite side of the barrier. Investigating police were quoted as saying the cause of the collision was due to a “mechanical issue”.

It would seem gratifying to all the persons within the 2 kilometer radius of the site who were evacuated that they were informed of the details of why such a dangerous event occurred. Surely a description like “mechanical issue” is all that is needed to be said. The possibility that this “mechanical issue” could have killed thousands of persons was not an understatement however the two word explanation would seem sufficient. Or are we wrong?

There is a further point: how did the trailer become flipped over the concrete barrier? Should no one question how and why a trailer carrying such a lethal cargo could be involved in such an incident?  One of the continual topics covered by Gorski Consulting on this website is the fact that roadside barriers on any highway are not designed to sufficiently manage the loss of control of a heavy truck or bus. More importantly we have stated that such barriers as the one in the present rollover are so low that they initiate a rollover rather than redirecting a heavy vehicle. This fact is not discussed and this prevents the general public from creating the mass impetus necessary to cause change. The upgrading of a vast number of barriers in North America is a huge expense that no single entity would want to put forth when there are so many other societal needs. Yet there is no general knowledge or discussion whether such up-grades are achievable.

At a minimum, heavy trucks carrying extremely dangerous cargos cannot be allowed to simply roll over a concrete without a detailed explanation whether a truck combination was used to minimize loss-of-control and rollover. At a minimum the truck trailer shown in the above photo seems to show a suspiciously high centre-of-gravity without adjustment of the track width and trailer length to compensate for that height. The trailer itself also appears to be of a non-standard design and should be evaluated for its compatibility with the road tractor. Whatever the specifics of the “mechanical issue” described by police the public needs to be informed what this mysterious “mechanical issue” was and why it existed.

June 6, 2017

How We Determine Pedestrian Speed Is Critical In A Collision Reconstruction

In the dark and mysterious realm of expert opinion in motor vehicle accident reconstruction the public rarely gets to see how analyses are conducted and how expert conclusions are drawn. Take the case of a stopped school bus and children exiting as shown in the photo below.

A school bus stops at a rural location and two young boys exit to proceed across the rural highway.

Although the stop sign of the bus, flashing lights and other warnings provide the motorist with ample information that they must stop, this similar scenario does not apply if the vehicle is not a school bus. In many scenarios smaller children are not tall enough to be seen above most vehicles. So if a driver strikes a child crossing the road, how much is it the driver’s fault? A critical factor in such an analysis is the speed assigned to the child crossing the road and therefore the time available for the driver to detect, identify and react. So the assumed crossing speed of the child becomes a critical factor in the analysis.

The photo below shows the scenario after one of the two young boys completes the crossing whereas the previous photo shows the scenario as that boy just begins the crossing.

The first of two young boys completes the crossing. What kind of speed should be assigned to that crossing and how much time did the driver have to detect, identify and react?

Experts typically look at observational data from published sources to come up with a reasonable crossing speed. From the above photos it would seem that a witness would suggest that the first boy was running very fast. But “running fast” for a 4-year-old might be substantially different than for a 10-year-old or a 14-year-old male. Some previous research (Eberhardt and Himbert, 1977) suggests that a running 4-year-old might travel at a speed of 3.1 metres per second, an 8-year-old 4.6 metres per second and a 14-year-old 5.35 metres per second. Another source (Eubanks and Hill, 1998) suggest a 5-year-old average running speed would be 3.4 metres per second, 8-year-old 4.3 metres per second and 14-year-old 4.5 metres per second. Thus, although the differences seem small, it depends which source you use for your assumptions.

However, what is an average 10-year-old? Is it a boy who is the slowest runner in his class of fast runners. Is it a boy carrying a knapsack? Is it a boy who wants to race his friend across the road? There are many factors that complicate the assumption.

Then, where do you “start” the crossing? In the above photos the driver facing the front of the bus may see the first boy as he commences his run from the far edge of the road. A driver approaching from the back of the bus may not have a chance to detect the running boy until a short time after the boy clears the driver’s side of the bus.

But what if either driver happens to briefly take his eyes away from the location where the boy begins to run: Does that not change the conclusion as to where the “start” of the run should be detected by either driver? Is it an absolute fact that every driver must be looking directly ahead at every instant of their driving? Is it possible that a driver’s attention might be drawn to an equally important fact on the other side of the road?

What if the impact occurred with the second boy? Should the driver have been forewarned by the presence of the first boy that there could be a second one running behind him? In hindsight many say yes, but often such judgments  are made after already knowing that a tragic event occurred and that someone must “pay” for it.

A typical, two-lane rural highway may contain lanes that are between 3.5 and 3.7 metres wide. However many local paved roads may contain lanes as narrow as 3.0 metres. If we assumed a lane width of 3.5 metres, and we assumed the first boy was about 8-years-old we might say that the boy running at a speed of 4.3 to 4.6 metres per second would complete the crossing of both lanes in about 1.5 to 1.6 seconds. Is this enough time for a driver to detect, indentify and react? Many experts use “perception/reaction” times as low as 0.5 seconds and some suggest that complex scenarios might be as high as 2.5 seconds or higher. So what is reasonable? Does the public know? Do the lawyers in the courtroom know? And even more importantly does the judge and jurors know?

There are many complications to these matters.

In many instances expert opinions in court are provided and believed without a firm grasp of what the expert has assumed and whether that assumption is reasonable. Thus it is essential for the expert to inform all involved not only what was assumed but why it was assumed and why that assumption was chosen to be reasonable.

 

June 5, 2017

Where is the Flagman?

Roadside construction on this rural highway could have led to fatal consequences as no flagman was used to direct traffic.

The actions of all persons on the road need to be monitored including those conducting construction along rural roadsides. In the above photo a construction vehicle blocking the approaching lane at a location where a solid centre-line indicates that it is unsafe to make a passing motion. The driver stopped behind the truck will require a considerable time to travel around the large truck because the vehicle will need to be accelerated to the higher speed. Note that a typical highway passing motion at 80 km/h is completed in about 8 seconds. As shown in the following two photos there is a worker with a white construction helmet who could have been used as a flagman to direct traffic but that is not the case.

A worker with a white construction helmet is available on the roadside and could have been the flagman to direct traffic.

 

Why is there no flagman in this scenario?

So where is the flagman? We found him. He/she was sitting in the back of the truck, as shown in the photo below.

The “Flagman” is sitting in the back of the truck, or at least the sign of the flagman.

This is a dangerous situation because of the length of the dump truck combined with the additional length of the large trailer that must be passed by the driver of the stopped van at a location where the visibility ahead is not  of sufficient distance as noted by the solid yellow centerline. Factors like these need to be identified in police investigations when fatal collisions occur.

Skating With Blind Trust

It’s never a bad time to adjust your skates!

Ok, we have seen it all before but this is another reminder: Pay attention to traffic. The above skater was found on Clarke Road in east London yesterday travelling northward in the curb lane.

News Moved To Archived Webpage

All news items including May, 2017 have now been moved to the Archived News page of this Gorski Consulting website.

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