January 14, 2018
Sidewalk Snow Plow Death In London Raises the Question of Their Safety
On Tuesday morning, January 9, 2018 a sidewalk snow plow was struck by an eastbound freight train at the Colborne Street Crossing of the Canadian National Railway tracks in London, Ontario. The driver of the plow, Malcolm Trudell, was killed.
Reports filed by local news media indicated that Trudell had begun plowing activities at approximately 2200 hours on the previous night and, given that the collision occurred at about 1000 hours on the following day, would mean that Trudell could have been working as much as 12 hours.
Reports indicated that the snow plow was northbound when it was struck and was pushed about 50 metres to the east. Furthermore, witnesses claimed that the train struck the front “snowblower” portion of the plow and thus did not strike the plow directly into its side. If such information were correct then a post-impact travel distance of about 50 metres would yield a train speed of about 80 km/h, if this had been a direct impact. The suggestion that the impact was a glancing one would indicate a higher speed of the train. Thus this information would lead into question why a freight train was travelling so quickly through the downtown area of the City of London. As if often the case, evidence reported by witnesses and written in news articles is often in error but the post-impact travel distance needs to be revealed by police.
A troubling aspect of the matter is that London City Police apparently referred all further questions to the “CN police”. There is always a concern that police are paid by the same entity (The City of London) as the potential defendant (Also The City of London) and this could lead to a bias in the investigation. This concern might be heightened when the CN police now become the investigators of an incident where their company could be the defendant.
The local news media reported that a railway safety expert, Richard Plokhaar, analysed the safety of 65 railway crossings in London and determined that the crossing at Colborne Street was the second-most dangerous. It was not explained what criteria and methodology were used in this assessment. It was noted however that, when the arms come down to block the roadway, no such arms block the actual sidewalk. Thus the argument could be posed that the plow driver could have entered into the crossing not realizing that the arms had come down on the road and that a train was approaching.
Others would pose the alternative argument that lights were flashing, a bell was ringing and the train let out a horn for what one witness described as about 30 seconds. If the train was travelling at 80 km/h or 22.2 metres per second, and if the impact occurred at about 30 seconds after the sounding of the horn then the start of the horn would have occurred when the train was about 666 metres west of the crossing. While that is possible it does not seem likely. Such a distance would be about halfway between Wellington Road and Richmond Street and it is questionable whether the train engineer could see the crossing at Colborne Street from such a distance.
What is notable is that an eastbound train does not pass through any level crossings in the west part of the City until Colborne Street and it could be travelling quite quickly because of the lack of concern with such crossings. As the Colborne Street crossing the first, at-grading crossing, one would think that special care and perhaps a slower speed would be needed so as not to catch persons by surprise.
Even if the conditions at the Colborne Street crossing are set aside, there was still major concerns about the environment in which drivers of these sidewalk plows must work. As noted in the photo at the top of this article, some sidewalk plows must operate within the travel lanes of a road or highway in order to clear some portions of the roadside. In the photo above the driver is working to clear snow in a transit bus lane at the intersection of Oxford Street and Highbury. This is a high traffic-volume location. Normally when work is being performed in a travel lane or close to it a variety of warning signs need to be erected to warn drivers. But when a small snow plow is plowing snow that signage never exists.
Below is another view of the snow as it travels in the southbound lane of Highbury Ave, carrying a pile of snow. Note that the cage around the driver’s head does not allow much visibility and the lifting arms of the plow normally rise to the driver’s eye height on occasions.
Another view of the plow is shown below and we can see the limited visibility available to the sides and behind the vehicle.
On January 27, 2014, we documented a Bobcat, sidewalk snow plow travelling north on the west sidewalk of Clarke Road as it passed over the railway tracks of the Goderich-Exeter railway line, as noted below. This is the same unit, S185, that is shown above at the Oxford and Highbury location.
A closer view of the driver in the cab below shows that he is wearing ear protection.
Clearly such ear protection is not helpful when the driver needs to hear the bell at the railway crossing or the horn of a locomotive approaching the plow’s location.
There are several types of sidewalk plows that operate along the streets of London. Below is an example of a Terex plow. This unit also has limited visibility available to the driver.
Another example of a different walkway plow is shown below. This is an older unit displaying the “City of London” patch on the lower part of its left door. It only has a front plow and therefore now arms that might lift and blow the driver’s view. There is an attachment in the rear possibly for storing sand or salt.
Below is yet another variate of the snowplow that has the frontal appearance of a small tractor. Again, it has no arms but just a forward snowblower attachment.
Another sidewalk plow that appears to be like a small tractor was observed on the west sidewalk of Clarke Road just north of Dundas Street on January 7, 2018.A closer view of the cab of this snowplow is shown below. Here we can see that the driver is not wearing any ear protection and he is also not wearing a helmet.
In all the examples we have seen there is no evidence that any of the drivers of the plows actually wear helmets. Yet, looking at the upper surroundings of the cabs there also does not appear to be any protection if the driver’s head should strike the interior during an impact. We are accustomed to seeing the advanced head protection afforded in modern passenger vehicles without raising a thought that these protections are mandated by the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) and their U.S. counterparts (FMVSS). It is highly unlikely that these standards are applied to the interiors of these small snowplows yet the danger of sustaining a major head injury could be greater than average.
Thus even a simple $35 dollar bicycling helmet could improve the safety of the drivers of these small snowplows. While one might say that such a helmet might be no match for an impact with a massive train locomotive such a conclusion is premature. If an impact is a glancing one, such as described the Colborne Street collision, the lack of any structural intrusion to the cab interior means that there could have been sufficient opportunity to survive provided that other safety devices such as a seat-belt were used.
Certainly there is a need to examine these issues more thoroughly and it is reported that an inquest might be called into this incident.
January 5, 2018
Police and Official News Media Continue to Flash Red Herrings in Front of the Public’s Eyes With Respect to the Causes of Collisions
You read and hear of it from police and official news media in almost every report of a collision: “The cause of the collision is unknown at this time”.
Such was the case again on January 3, 2018 when an eastbound vehicle reportedly struck the large anchorage pole near a ramp of Highway 401 resulting in fatal injuries to both occupants of the vehicle. Naturally, in the early stages of a collision investigation there are facts that cannot be known. But some results are simply too glaring and obvious that they require some form of recognition.
An eastbound vehicle impacted the anchorage pole of an overhead sign on Hwy 401 near Warden and Kennedy Roads. Police and news media failed to inform the public that such an incident should not occur. Anyone who has even a basic understanding of road safety understands that Highway 401 should be designed and maintained to the highest degree because it carries so much of a volume of traffic that any deficiency could easily result in at least one deadly incident. So when police and news media observe a vehicle wrapped around an anchorage pole, as shown in the photo above, the immediate question that should be raised is how and why the vehicle struck the pole and whether this is acceptable. Roadsides of such high speed expressways are designed to limit the severity of impacts through a variety of systems that, when impacted, may deflect the impacting vehicle or the system may deform or become deflected. All these actions result in a gradual reduction in speed of the vehicle which lowers the potential for occupant injury. When there is an impact which causes the vehicle to reduce its speed to zero then that cannot be acceptable. Even a vehicle travelling at 50 km/h that strikes an immovable object can result in fatal injuries, even with all the modern technology built into modern vehicles.
A photo of the vehicle shown below demonstrates the very large amount of crush and comments were made suggesting that the vehicle must have been travelling at a tremendous speed to cause such crush. Yet no one informed the public that when a vehicle strikes a narrow immovable object with its roof then tremendous crush can occur even at speeds of only 50 km/h because the roof any vehicle is very soft. The impression is left that there is no need to examine this incident any further because this was another obvious scenario of a driver travelling at tremendous speed and nothing else is of relevance.
Police will likely have access to the vehicle’s event data recorder (“black box”) and they could inform the public of the exact speed registered in the data – if they so wished. And any news journalist could put that question to police so as to inform the public. But that never happens. So far as the public is concerned there is no need to examine this further because the police and news media can be trusted to tell the truth.
But has the truth been told, or is there such a thing as a half truth which results in a lie? How did the striking vehicle end up making contact so high above the concrete barrier which should have deflected its motion? Surely even a jet propelled rocket travelling at 500 km/h along the surface of the road and striking a flat wall at a sharp angle should not be deflected upward because no upward force should exist, the forces involved should all be parallel to the road surface. Clearly concrete barriers such as the one shown in the above photos have been in existence for decades and have sustained thousands upon thousands of impacts with great success in deflecting a vehicle’s path or causing the vehicle to ride along its surface over long distances before the vehicle comes to a stop. But that is not what happened in this case.
As experts in road safety and collision reconstruction the public who read our news items and articles depend upon us to provide accurate and truthful opinions and advice. However when incidents like these occur there is very little information made available for us to provide conclusive comments. Yet we see that something occurred which was obviously wrong. If we were to say what we suspect happened there is a possibility that we might provide the wrong opinion. Yet the importance of these occurrences requires that someone say something. We have made comments on a number of occasions where all the facts were not available for the very reason that these matters affect the safety of the public in general. Just because those whose responsibility it is to properly inform the public do not do so does not mean that we should remain silent. That process needs to be changed.
The public should not be provided with red herrings waved in front of their noses to distract them from the obvious questions that should be asked and the obvious answers that the public should have. Why did this vehicle strike the pole like it did and why was it not deflected by the concrete barrier like it should have? There may be an explanation for that and the explanation may be acceptable but the public should hear that explanation and be informed by neutral parties whether the explanation makes sense.
January 1, 2018
Happy New Year – Or At Least A Better One Than The Last
As New Year’s Day represents a closing of most of the major celebrating of the holiday season this is an opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished at Gorski Consulting in 2017.
We started 2017 with our reporting on the research we have been conducting at the S-curve of Clarke Road north of Fanshawe Park Road in the north-eastern outskirts of London, Ontario. Several articles were posted to this website that showed that many single-vehicle collisions and incidents are not reported in official statistics and this may reflect on the accuracy of any conclusions and effectiveness of policies aimed at improving road safety.
We also reported on the testing we performed on Highway 401 just east of London, Ontario where we documented the average speeds of eastbound vehicles.
We also reported on our work involving the documentation of steering wheel rotations and how this can be used to explore the character and geometry of road surfaces and curves.
However going into the 2nd quarter of the year we began to experience a higher workload involving the needs of our clients and this resulted in a reduction in the number of articles posted to this site. This did not mean that we were no longer involved in our work but rather we were too busy to report on our activities. This resulted in the lowest number of articles being posted to this website in the last several years.
We attempted to maintain some consistency in reporting various issues on the News page of this site however this too became difficult as we ran out of time. Thus in the last quarter of 2017 we also presented very few news items to this site.
We have been aware, and continue to be aware, of the popularity of various social media such as Facebook and Twitter and we have had options to join these groups like so many have. Up to this time we have opted not to do so. Many would comment that we are missing out on communicating to a much larger audience and this would improve our business success. If these matters were of importance to us we would have gone this route a number of years ago.
The fact is, the monetary success of our business is of minor importance and that would appear to be a strange comment to many. However, we have a valid message. Whether it reaches only a few is irrelevant at this time. Those who choose to visit our site are welcome. Those who wish to follow other pursuits we also wish them well. Our business is thriving sufficiently well that we do not need to chase new business and the complications that this brings. We think we offer valuable advice for those who wish to take it and it is free. We do not allow any advertising on this site and will continue to do so because we see the annoyance that it brings when we visit other websites. We are not interested in selling you anything except useful advice when you meet difficult times.
We hope to pursuit our goals in 2018 as we have in other years. Our goal is to be truthful, to communicate difficult subject matter and opinions that will not always be shared by all. Our goal will continue to improve the safety of the travelling public by being the canary in the coal mine, by singing as much as possible without resulting in our own demise. And most importantly, we hope to be the supporting hand for those innocent persons who sometimes get trapped in a crazy system that cannot give them the justice they deserve.
December 15, 2017
Karen Caughlin Murder – Or Was It A Pedestrian Hit & Run Collision?
Any fatality is tragic. However for those instances where an understanding of how the fatality occurred does not exist the tragedy lives on. Such has been the cold case of Karen Caughlin, a young teenager who was reportedly found in a ditch along a Lambton County highway on March 16, 1974.
News of the fatality has been sprinkled in the media pages every so often in the hope that it might jar someone’s memory or guilt into revealing a tip that might resolve how Karen passed away. All these notices indicated that Karen had been murdered. Suddenly, this week, that all changed.
In a story initially published by the London Free Press on December 14, 2017, Lambton OPP reportedly released some photos of the clothing worn by Karen on the night that she passed away. The “photos” accompanying the story showed a type of mannikin, head covered, standing on a bare road, with back turned away from the “camera”. Clearly this was not a photograph at all but a rendering from a computerized video/animation project. The clothes were likely placed on a mannikin and then scanned with a laser scanner. The article reported that “3D scanning” was used.
It was reported that a news conference was announced where the investigator responsible for the development of the photo, OPP Detective-Inspector Chris Avery, announced that it was no longer the position of the police that Caughlin was murdered, but in fact, she had been struck by a vehicle and then her body was transported to the ditch located several kilometres away from the accident location. The article further indicated that Detective-Inspector Avery broadened the probe by “seeking a new review of medical evidence”.
The London Free Press article indicated:
“Asked if the OPP in the past had been mistaken not to actively investigate Caughlin’s death as being caused by a motor vehicle collision, Avery would not second-guess his predecessors, saying they lacked access to technology he had used”. We find this commentary misleading but also revealing.
In the year that this “collision” occurred the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team came into existence. It was made up of an number of full-time investigators led by Mr. Len Thomas. Thomas was a thermo-dynamics, PhD student when he was assigned the position and he found the team’s work so interesting that he simply forgot his interest in thermo-dynamics and put all his focus into the team’s work. It was known that Len Thomas would actually sleep on a couch at the Team’s office with a radio connected to the police frequencies so that he could be alerted to major collisions at the earliest moment, thus reaching some collision sites almost as quickly as the police themselves. Len was welcomed by police and there was a common goal established in determining how an incident occurred.
This was not only a singular effort of Len Thomas but there were a number of other investigators on the team who were passionate about collision investigation. The team employed two, yellow-and-black, “bumble-bee” cars that were coloured in red bully’s-eyes and roof lights reminiscent of the Ghost-Busters automobile of the popular movie several decades later. These investigators were equipped with good quality photographic equipment and photographers who actually knew how to take photographs. The bottom line is that these investigators were supported by federal funds and were part of a network of other teams across North America. They were eager and willing to provided multi-disciplinary investigations, all someone had to do was ask.
The Team was also supported by a “Consultative Panel” made up of a number of administrators from local police forces that included the OPP and many chiefs from local police forces. There was also a medical consultant and coroner on the Panel who was also deeply involved in motor vehicle collision investigation.
When Zygmunt Gorski joined the team 6 years later, in 1980, he was able to examine previous, multi-disciplinary cases that the Team has been involved in since its inception. There was no file in existence relating to the death of Karen Caughlin. That would not be surprising given the current information that, up to now, the police treated her death as a homicide. But the quote of Detective-Inspector Avery that police of the past could not be faulted because they did not possess the technology that he did is misleading, in our opinion.
What Inspector Avery had was the ability to conduct a laser scan of Caughlin’s clothing. While that would be helpful in creating a 3-D image,that was not a revolutionary technology that should have altered the investigation. Police in 1974 could easily have placed the clothing on a similar mannikin and taken measurements of the evidence. They would also have had information about Caughlin’s injuries. They could have created detailed, scale drawings of the evidence. These pieces of evidence did not require a laser-scanner to be used effectively in an investigation of what caused Caughlin’s death. What was required was an investigator who was knowledgeable of injury causation and particularly what injuries were caused and common in motor vehicle accidents. The UWO Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team had investigators with such knowledge and could have been of some assistance. So why did police not consider that the injuries they saw were not related to a motor vehicle collision? This is particularly so as she was found in a ditch close to a road and her purse was reportedly found on a road a few kilometres away? Should that question not be pursued more thoroughly?
The present circumstances are also not satisfactory. Inspector Avery has stood up on podium and has claimed that his analysis is correct while his predecessors were wrong. And this opinion has been broadcast through the various news agencies. But where is the proof? Beyond the notification that a laser scan was conducted, what other proof has been provided that Inspector Avery’s opinion is correct? Does Inspector Avery have any experience in collision investigation, reconstruction and injury assessment? He may, but the public has been provided no information about his background. In the 37 years that we have operated in the vicinity of this region we have never come across the Inspector’s name as someone knowledgeable and trained in collision investigation and reconstruction.
Meanwhile over 40 years have gone by and no one other than the police investigators has any information about the exact injuries that Caughlin sustained. Knowledge of those injuries would lead many other specialists, such as ourselves, to provide our own opinions as to the quality and accuracy of Inspector Avery’s conclusions. But that has not been offered. The unfortunate reality is that the investigations of many investigators, whether they be police or in the private sector, are often wrong. Especially when they are performed without a proper, review by an independent agency. Even very recently we have noted in a recent fatal police investigation that, even though three peer reviews were performed by other police officers in the same police service, glaring errors existed in an investigation that were never uncovered because the police investigators conducting the reviews were no better trained or experienced that the initial investigator. Education is crucial but experience is absolutely essential.
One of the greatest problems with police investigations of motor vehicle collisions is that the officers are inexperienced. Few officers remain as reconstructionists in a traffic unit for longer than 10 years. Yet it is this experience which is most important in giving the officer the ability to detect and interpret the evidence that must be the basis of further analysis, including the use of advanced technology. Advanced technology does not guarantee that an investigator will reach a proper conclusion, it only means that the investigator will reach the wrong conclusion faster, if that technology is not applied properly.
While these criticisms are made with respect to the Caughlin investigation they are not meant to reflect on any of the officers, current or previous, who may have worked hard to resolve this case. We simply point out that we, and the public, do not have sufficient information about how that investigation was carried out and how it is presently being carried out. These are important facts that are missing. At this point we ought to be informed how the police investigation seems to have made a dramatic turn toward such different direction. Not only for the Caughlin family’s sake but each of us may be equally placed in their position at some future date and there has to be some assurance that these matters are being dealt with properly.
December 8, 2017
Busy Times Continue Unabated At Gorski Consulting
While in previous years the Christmas holiday season has meant a reduction in commitments to our clients that appears to be different this season. The busy period began in late summer and continues without much sign of a change. As such we continue to apologize for the lack of additions to our website.
Recently we have had occasion to provide testimony at several criminal trials, an activity that has been uncommon since most of our cases have dealt with civil proceedings. However these occasions have provided further insight into an area of the Ontario justice system that we may comment on in the future.
We continue to note the developments with respect to Highway 401 and the protests being organized in the Chatham, Ontario area by local residents who want to see a permanent median barrier to be erected between Tilbury and London. An organizational meeting was held in Chatham last week which was also attended by police and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Unfortunately other commitments prevented us from attending the meeting. Zygmunt Gorski had provided testimony in 1989 at an inquest into the installation of median barriers between London and Woodstock and there has always been interest in roadside safety at Gorski Consulting. As usual we attempt to advise that objective facts are needed to be studied and understood before one can decide one way or the other as to what is needed and what is missing.
We also note that Ontario is embarking on another change to its auto insurance system on the theme that such changes will be more fair and less costly. While we have not examined the details of the current changes we have been previously disappointed on many occasions with the problems that seem to be permanently entrenched without resolve.
This summarizes our recent activities and observations. Again we apologize for the lack of recent content on this website however we remain committed to continue activities on this website as time allows.
November 13, 2017
Road Surface Testing on Medway Road, North-West of London, Ontario Provides Further Validation of Methodology Developed by Gorski Consulting
We have had an opportunity to continue testing of road surface conditions that has been described in previous articles and has resulted in the data shown on the Road Data page of this website. The latest testing was performed on November 11, 2017 on Medway Road between Wonderland Road and Vanneck Road, on the north-west outskirts of London, Ontario. The validity of this data was revealed because the testing commenced westbound on a newly-paved section of Medway Road and then the test vehicle rode onto a substantially aged and bumpy surface that was located just west of Hyde Park Road. The resulting data clearly showed how the smooth surface provided very low levels of longitudinal and lateral rotation of the test vehicle and then once the vehicle entered the aged/bumpy surface the rotations immediately increased to a high level. We then performed the testing in an eastbound direction and again the same difference in rotation data occurred.
This testing demonstrates once again that the gathered data is valid and is reliable in demonstrating the differences in the quality of various road surfaces as they affect the stability of a passenger vehicle. The latest data will soon be posted on the Road Data webpage and it is possible that we may find time to write and upload a brief article describing the testing.
Once again, we must apologize for the minimal posting of news and articles to this site as we have been very busy with cases assigned to us by paying clients. Typically the workload tends to slow down as we approach the Christmas season and we should start to see some freed up time to attend to this website.
October 29, 2017
Thirty Years Since Unsatisfactory Roadside Barrier System Paper Released – Not Much Has Changed
Thirty years ago Zygmunt Gorski was part of the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team that published a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) research paper entitled “Unsatisfactory Roadside Barrier System Performance in Real-World Collisions: Lessons to be Learned”. The opening abstract to that paper was prophetic in its relevance to the problems that continue to exist on essentially all roadways of the modern era.
The abstract from that paper read as follows:
“Roadside safety has progressively improved in the past decade with the development of new and better highway barrier systems, break-away poles, and energy attenuators. In some cases these systems function well under laboratory conditions, but perform unsatisfactorily in certain roadside settings. Sometimes this is due to improper or incomplete application of the design criteria by highway engineers who copy basic structure, but ignore vital functional elements. In such instances, roadside systems which have been introduced to prevent accidents, or more often, to reduce their severity, have in fact contributed to increasing the severity of collisions at certain locations. This paper identifies some of the missing or mis-applied design criteria which are leading to real-world failure of techniques that have been laboratory proven in most cases. Only by investigating real-world accidents to understand better the deviations from test conditions, or to identify obvious inattention in anticipating the kinematics of errant vehicles, can useful information be collected to assist the designer and construction and maintenance teams.”
As a Transport Canada funded research unit the UWO MDAI team did not have a stake in any decision-making regarding liability for collision consequences thus our opinions were truly independent of that bias. Even 30 years ago criticisms were expressed by certain parties representing the interests of those who might be held liable for the unsatisfactory performance or roadside systems. Over the years that has not changed. To this day, police are trained in a variety of roadway safety issues focused on the impairment, distraction and speeding of drivers yet they have no training to allow them to detect roadside dangers. This has become more critical in recent years when insurers have stopped conducting independent investigations thus relying on the single source of police data for all determinations of cause. Similarly government agencies such as Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have milked down the funding of independent research teams that would conduct independent investigations. While Transport Canada used to operate 10, fully-staffed teams and NHTSA used to operate 50, those numbers were slowly diminished to small skeleton groups. Only in the last year or two has NHTSA recognized that their team system has become non-functional due to lack of resources and is now examining a re-introduction of greater funding.
Similar problems exist in the courts where judges either do not understand the importance of roadside safety, or they believe that an emphasis should be placed on deterence of driver faults. Thus little opportunity exists to correct roadside safety problems when the courts are unwilling to recognize that a malfunctioning roadway infrastructure can be just as lethal as a drunk or inattentive driver.
The bottom line is that the problems that our research team identified 30 years ago continue to exist without much thought toward correction. Here are some examples of problems identified in our research paper that continue to exist today.
As shown in the example below, various roadside barriers and guardrails are tested in laboratory conditions where it is assumed that there will be no contaminants/objects/structures that might be placed between the roadside system and the approaching vehicle. In the real world such is not the case. In Canada snow plows push accumulated snow off the road surface and against various roadside systems. Over time the snow becomes compressed and hardened enabling icy snowbanks to withstand the weight of a typical vehicle. Thus those hardened snow banks turn into ramps that allow the vehicle to ride up and over a barrier and into impact with the very danger that the barrier was made to avoid. In the photo below one can see a tire mark of a vehicle that was vaulted over the barrier and the driver sustained fatal injuries as his vehicle struck the concrete wall of the highway overpass.
While the removal of snow from roadways can be difficult and complicated, there is little or no identification provided either in police investigations or through public news media outlets to allow for an assessment whether snow removal could have been achieved in a safer manner.
Another problem involves the proper management of collision energy by guardrail systems positioned next to concrete bridge abutments. The photo below shows Dr. Robert Green, a coroner, and member of the UWO MDAI team, explaining how the guardrail at Dodd’s Creek was not properly attached to the concrete bridge abutment. As a result a vehicle which struck the barrier, caused the rail to be displaced and this channeled the vehicle directly into the stiff concrete abutment. The inquest resulting from this inquiry led to requirements that all guardrail systems adjacent to such stiff abutments be properly anchored and stiffened upon approach to the abutment. While this became mandatory, we have observed a number of incidents where proper anchorage did not exist, fatalities occurred, but no official investigation identified the existence of this threat.
Another historical problem involves the harpooning of vehicles by various roadside barriers. The example shown below occurred on Highway 4, northwest of London Ontario when a southbound car entered into a loss-of-control rotation (yaw) at a curve and downgrade and slid into the end of a guardrail resulting in fatal injuries to the driver. The designers, installers and maintainers of such roadside systems must be vigilant to instances where such harpooning can occur. Yet in recent years there have been problems reported in the news media where a certain type of guardrail terminal, the ET-PLUS, manufactured by Trinity Highway Products in Dallas, Texas, was the subject of concerns for causing the harpooning of impacting vehicles. While the U.S. Highway Safety Administration reportedly assembled a group of experts to evaluate whether the terminals posed an unusually high risk of malfunction, the analysis used insufficient data and questionable practices such that an independent assessment of the risk became questionable. What is apparent is that Trinity Highway Products was the dominant player in the supply of guardrail terminals before the controversy erupted but since then they appear to be losing market share as many municipalities and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation have begun installing terminals manufactured by other businesses. Yet there has been no proper study of any of the terminals to inform the public what system is safer than another.
In another harpooning incident the photo below shows the interior of a school bus which had collided with a chain link fence located on Highway 401 near Cambridge, Ontario. The top, metal bar of the fence passed into the occupant compartment of the bus and harpooned one of its passengers.
As shown below, the bar harpooned the passenger’s chest area. The bar had to be cut at both ends and the passenger had to be transported to hospital with the bar still stuck in his chest. Fortunately this person survived.
Unfortunately the lessons that could have been learned from this incident have been largely forgotten. Although the noted chain fence was eventually removed from the highway there are presently numerous similar installations on every part of the roadway system in Ontario. This is not a matter of focusing just on chain link fences but there are many similar structures on the roadsides throughout Ontario. These dangers remain unreported.
October 27, 2017
Not Busy Enough To Ignore Hwy 401 Safety Developments
While we continue to be tied up with cases for which we have been hired by individual clients we cannot ignore the recent developments that have occurred regarding the safety of heavy trucks on major expressways such as Highway 401 in southern Ontario.
It seems many collision reconstruction “experts” including police officials who have likely had very little training or experience in collision reconstruction have stepped up to the media podium and explained precisely why fatal collisions involving heavy trucks are occurring. These experts claim that there is only one factor – driver error and inattention – and punishment of truck drivers is the only solution.
We offer a quote from an expert in human perception-reaction who has conducted a large number of studies in the realm of the ability of drivers to detect, recognize and avoid roadway dangers:
“…Using 2.5 seconds for a poorly recognizable object, such as a slow moving truck (travelling in the same direction) on a limited access highway or a pedestrian at night…would be worthless because it doesn’t measure or represent any time period. It does not account for human threshold contrast detection, it does not account for pattern recognition and it does not account for relative velocity threshold detection limitations of humans. In those type, 2.5 seconds may be a gross underestimation of the time needed.”
Yet the above expert also opined that the average following distance of one vehicle behind another is typically 1 to 3 seconds. Yes, this is a problem but it is also a reality, not of one individual driver, but of us all who drive along limited-access highways.
The problem that is not being addressed is that drivers on these limited access highways are used to driving for many minutes or hours at a constant speed without interference and an expectation is developed that traffic will continue to move as it has done so previously. Situations occur when those expectations are violated. While many drivers of passenger cars are able to bring their vehicles to a halt in a shorter time, the drivers of heavy trucks cannot slow down in the same time and distance. The problem is aggravated when drivers of light vehicles steer into a truck driver’s path without providing sufficient time and distance ahead. And such actions are common when other drivers are surprised by a sudden reduction in traffic speeds. The bottom line is that fault is often shared by many drivers, not just the demon truck drivers who are being presently blamed.
There is a continual refusal by police and news media to inform the public that many of these fatal truck collisions are related to areas of road construction where lanes are blocked and sudden motion stoppages occur. While road construction must occur, those responsible for the set-up of the lane closures must be prepared to anticipate that this will likely cause traffic problems and they cannot simply leave those problems to be handled by the drivers themselves. Ultimately a method has to be developed where more warning is provided to drivers when they are approaching an area where traffic has come to a complete stop, or is beginning to slow rapidly. Until automatic braking takes hold in the general population of vehicle fleets these problems need to be addressed with science, not with accusations and insults against a specific minority of drivers by persons who do not have a clear understanding of the problem.
October 6, 2017
Our Apologies Continue – Too Busy To Post
It continues to be a busy time at Gorski Consulting. While interesting collision reconstruction and roadway safety issues exist we are tied down with issues related to servicing the needs of individual clients for our services. This means fewer opportunities to post items on our website.
One issue that has become quite live in recent months has been the development of criminal activities using a motor vehicle. This is an obvious concern to everyone in these times where persons of unstable thought and actions also have control of deadly weapons other than guns. We at Gorski Consulting have no immediate solution or helpful advice to give at this time; regrettably. While upon a meeting with another colleague who was dealing with safety material for children he mentioned the catchy phrase “Don’t Trust the Driver”. While he was referring to the notion that children should pay attention to traffic around them instead of assuming that all will be well, it seems to us that in these unfortunate times we need to also become more cautious about the criminal intentions of drivers in general.
September 26, 2017
Busy Time Means Fewer Website Postings
We apologize for our lack of recent postings to this website. As a collision reconstruction and safety research business our primary work is in handling requests to evaluate cases for our clients. This past month or more we have experienced a higher than normal workload and therefore there has been less time to provide discussions and content on our website. Rest assured that our business has ebbs and flows like all do and when our commitments subside there will be further postings on this site.
September 1, 2017
Possible Deaths From Drowning and Fires Continue to be Kept From Public Knowledge
Fatality and injury rates have been rising in the last couple of years just as new, advanced technologies would be expected to be bringing those rates down. To date official explanations of these perplexing trends have been toward suggesting that the improved economy was the result of this bad news. Yet, when death and injury rates were falling during poor economic times there was little propaganda that the falling rates were due to those worsening economic factors. It was said to be due to the great work by vehicle manufacturers, roadway maintenance/design and the work of law enforcement battling drinking driving.
Now, the latest propaganda is that distracted driving is the result of these rising death and injury rates. The product being sold to the public is that there is a skyrocketing amount of distracted driving that did not exist in previous decades. There is no mention however that in the present day law enforcement can often determine if an information/entertainment device was activated while in previous decades there was no way to know. How often would the police of 1980 positively identify that the driver was inserting a cassette into an 8-track player of a Pontiac Firebird when he entered the curve that led to his deadly fate? Could there be a difference in the ability to detect distracted driving?
While speeding, distraction and impairment are presently the low-lights of collision history, they have also been so, for many decades. Meanwhile the modern age has brought changes to the quality of reporting of important factors other than the most obvious. As social media and the internet have blossomed, quality journalism and the numbers of independent newspapers and other news media has plummeted. While in the past the news was gathered and reported from many hands, eyes and ears, now the news is reported by a select few individuals working for large corporate agencies run by only a few power-brokers. The news item that is found in one local newspaper is no different than the news in a nearby town or city because that news is coming from the same hand, eye and ear. That is the new developing problem.
When developments occur that are new threats to the public there is a greater likelihood that they will not be properly reported, or not reported at all. While social media like twitter and facebook would appear to be the answer, they are not. These sources of news are very unreliable in their ability to report news in an accurate, professional, journalistic manner. They are also very limited in their knowledge of key points of an investigation. They often rely on hearsay, unsupportable judgments, emotional reactions and similar actions that do very little to improve the public’s need to know what has transpired. Yet they hold the promise of being better in the future. Rapid independent reporting using social media via live photos and video and from witnesses present at an accident site can be of great value in informing the public.
At present there are major concerns about developments in motor vehicle collisions that are not properly documented or reported. These being the incidents of drownings and fires. Despite the marvelous achievements of motor vehicle safety standards in the last several decades, none of these can stop a vehicle occupant from drowning or being burned alive after being trapped in a collision-involved vehicle. These are difficult results to report to the public for obvious reasons. However there must be a weighing of these difficulties against the reality that not reporting them will lead to the prevention of a solution.
It the past 24 hours in the region of South-Western Ontario two incidents were reported without proper identification of their cause. In one incident there was a failure to report that a fire had engulfed a vehicle after a collision on Highway 6 south of Tobermory, Ontario. Although the collision occurred on August 27th, none of the official news agencies reported that such a fire occurred until today, September 1st. Why? Was the fire related to the deaths? Was it an inevitable fact that a fire should have taken place? Did the fire-engulfed vehicle meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards? Did anyone bother to ask?
In the second incident that reportedly occurred on Grey County Road 4 earlier this morning, a female driver was reportedly found deceased after her vehicle rolled down a steep embankment and landed in a pond. Did this driver drown? If so why did she drown? Was she unable to escape her vehicle? Was there sufficient road design and roadside protection to prevent the vehicle from entering the water? Who will ask these important questions and report to the public about their significance and importance? Will it be left to twitter and facebook?
August 30, 2017
Insufficient Explanation For Cause Of Fatal Injuries In Median Crossover Collision On Highway 401 Near Currie Road
The obvious response is that it is too early in the investigation to know what happened. However, that is not the point.
Information about how a mother and her 5-year-old daughter sustained their fatal injuries will likely never be provided, like it never is provided.
Police suffer from a biased belief that their sole concern must be to protect the privacy of individuals, their families and relations while failing to understand that there are other important matters that need to be considered. The public also has a stake in these matters as the public is the future victim of the next fatal collision that will occur. When unexplained fatalities occur the public is misinformed, no less so that if a container of drugs does not contain warning labels or if a physician fails to inform a patient of the possible fatal consequences of commencing a certain medical procedure.
At face value, a median crossover collision raises little concern to the public as they would expect that vehicles travelling at highway speed should collide at highway speed and that fatalities in such incidents are inevitable. This is especially true when those persons responsible for evaluating the significance of what has occurred have not raised any concerns. The public has also been informed, in previous decades, of the numerous median crossover fatalities that occurred on Highway 401 in the 1980s before a concrete median was erected in the 1990s. No longer is the official news media willing to publish any additional concerns about median cross-overs.
Zygmunt Gorski was one of the investigators who gave testimony at the 1989 inquest into the Highway 401 median crossovers. As an Accident Investigator with the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team Gorski provided the results of the team’s studies of motor vehicle fatal, injury and damage collisions that were occurring from median cross-overs. Some of the key points that were raised included a review of the incidence of vehicle rollover, the departure angles at which vehicles left the paved surface, the distance that vehicles travelled along that departure angle and the distance that vehicles travelled perpendicular to the asphalt edge of the lane in which they were travelling.
The UWO Multi-Disciplinary Team’s analysis of Highway 401 median cross-over collisions involved 5 years of data from April, 1984 through to April 1989. The study area was comprised of Highway 401 at the border of Kent and Elgin Counties ( i.e. the west edge of the patrol area of the Dutton Detachment of the OPP) through to the border of Oxford and Waterloo Counties (i.e. east edge of area patrolled by Woodstock Detachment of the OPP). Sixty seven collisions were documented in that period. Of those 67, 38 were fatal collisions and 29 were personal injury collisions. Of those 67 collisions, 27 involved vehicles that travelled through the median while another 13 came to a stop within the median. Of the 27 vehicles that passed through the median, 20 of those were fatal collisions. Of the 27 incidents where a vehicle passed through the median 18 of those were located in the narrow portion of the median between Highway 402 and Highway 2 in Woodstock, Ontario.
Of particular concern was that the median of Highway 401 was only approximately 8 metres wide in the zone stretching from Highway 402 through to Woodstock, Ontario. That provided the opportunity for many vehicles to cross the narrow median and collide with opposing vehicles at high speed and with lessened opportunity for collision avoidance. But there is a substantial difference in the make-up of the median near the present double-fatal collision at Currie Road that the public is unaware of. Also the safety standards available on present day vehicles are superior to what was available 30 years ago. There are other factors such the vehicle mass ratios and occupant restraint in the present collision that required clarification. None of these points are ever likely to be revealed to the public.
August 19, 2017
Police Warning Regarding Inappropriate Social Media Posting of Crash Scenes Is Itself Inappropriate
Police and official news media outlets themselves should evaluate the appropriateness of their use of wording such as “warning” in advising the pubic what is acceptable in public discussion on social media. In the last couple of days almost all major news outlets published or aired comments made by police that posting of video and still photographs of collision scenes was inappropriate and this was a warning to stop this behavior. While there are elements to the comments that are legitimate the general tone of the message was itself inappropriate.
Police have no right warning the public about what information they should share publicly about events that affect the public. Police can advise however that there is a need to be aware how public discussions can become insensitive and this is obvious in all areas of social media where the true nature of a few becomes visible for all to see, however the names of those posters are hidden. The posting of information about collisions is only a part of this general issue.
A narrow and biased discussion was provided by police and official news media that it is inappropriate for the public to take video and photos of a collision scene and air them on social media before police have had an opportunity to inform next of kin of a death. In our view there is a narrow difference between a family member being informed immediately via live, or almost live, media as opposed to waiting several hours or more to be officially informed of a tragic outcome by police investigators. The news is not any better for that family member of when the information is received. Posters of such information need to be reminded however that there are family members involved and they need to consider how the information should be posted.
What police and official news agencies have failed to indicate is the importance of such independent and immediate documentation in determining how and why a collision occurred. As technical analysts of these tragic events Gorski Consulting must frequently use the evidence collected by police investigators to provide an opinion as to how a collision occurred and who was at fault. On a continuous basis we are faced with incidents where police investigators have failed to document crucial evidence that would have made a major impact in the analysis. Yet police are the only ones who are allowed to document that evidence, often with the exclusion of even basic documentation by official news media. This presents a problem because there are many instances where police investigators do not appreciate what it is that they should be documenting, what purpose that evidence serves and often they do not have the lengthy experience needed to recognize important evidence when they see it. This is not meant to be a blanket statement for all police involved as they are many excellent personnel in that mix. However, the frequency with which we see these issues recurring leads us to make this comment.
Independent, random photos and video taken by witnesses and bystanders can be the important key to uncovering a crucial fact that was missed by official investigators. Rather than victimizing family members such evidence could actually provide essential help to those family members in explaining for them why and how the tragedy occurred. Unfortunately we have been contacted by frustrated family members who have tried in vain to have explanations provided to them by police who sometimes express the attitude that “It is what it is because I say that it is!” In many instances such attitudes originate because the police investigator has not uncovered an explanation yet they have been placed in the official position of the expert who is depended upon to have that explanation. When that police expert is unable to provide an explanation it is left to post-hoc experts and investigators to re-examine the issue, sometimes many years after the fact, when it is no longer possible to retrieve any additional evidence. It becomes crucial in these instances to have on-site information other than what the police expert thought was necessary.
In the view of Gorski Consulting, the use of large-scale public news outlets by police and official news agencies to suggest that public posting of collision scenes on social media is somehow unlawful is itself inappropriate and provides a biased slant on this activity. We advise the public that they can play an important role in uncovering how and why tragic events occurred however, as always, they need to do so with sensitivity. All actions cannot be pleasing, or perceived as helpful to everyone, however the negative impact can be minimized with some forethought.
August 18, 2017
Another OPP Officer Dragged By Escaping Vehicle – A Dangerous Outcome & Questions Regarding Police Protection & Training
It has been reported that a Middlesex County OPP officer was dragged by a fleeing vehicle during a traffic stop in the parking lot of a hotel on Exeter Road near Wellington Road in London, Ontario. Four persons were in the vehicle at the time and the officer had learned that the vehicle had been stolen. Details of the incident were not made available except that the driver failed to comply with directions to turn off his vehicle, a 2014 Ford Edge SUV, and the vehicle was reversed resulting in the officer being dragged during that motion.
Gorski Consulting was involved in a detailed study of a previous incident where an OPP officer was killed as a result his attempts to forcibly turn off the ignition of a vehicle in which the driver failed to comply. Strangely that incident also involved four occupants of a light duty van in night-time conditions. Our testing examined how the officer could become attached to the fleeing vehicle through re-enactments of the positions of the persons involved using an identical vehicle. Our studies had concluded that officers may not be fully aware of the danger they may face in such incidents and proper training must be a key component to preventing future tragedies.
A vehicle that is stopped with the motor running is no different that if a driver had a loaded gun in his/her hand. That must be appreciated. If a driver fails to comply to turn off the engine the officer must take action to protect him or herself from the “motorized gun” that could be directed at them. In such a case the officer must first consider his/her own safety by seeking a location or object that could protect them if the vehicle should be accelerated toward them. Seeking to position oneself within the cruiser or moving into an external position where the cruiser is used as a shield must be a consideration in the officer’s train of thought. But by no means should the officer approach such a vehicle. A call for back-up must be made and deployment of further resources must be made.
Police must understand that they can use their own gun, with judicious thought, to shoot out the vehicle’s tires or at the vehicle’s engine to disable the vehicle. Unfortunately a Toronto police officer who did just that a couple of years ago was severely reprimanded as some viewed this action as an officer who was out of control of his weapon. It was not appreciated that by disabling a vehicle that officer may have protected the lives of other officers or other innocent persons if that driver had attempted to flee. This is vastly different from other police incidents where a gun is fired at a non-compliant individual for minimal reason.
While it was reported that the officer in the current incident received only minor injuries the reported facts should leave anyone concerned about how police are trained to deal with these incidents.
August 13, 2017
Virginia Vehicle Intentionally Driven Into Protestors – The Vehicle As A Murder Weapon
The exchange of heated political views had risen to extremes yesterday, when a vehicle was reportedly driven, on purpose, into a crowd demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Once again the incident demonstrates the difficult reality that motor vehicles can be turned into murder weapons no less lethal than a loaded gun. There is little that can be done should an individual choose any instrument for a violent purpose however the existence of such a large population of large and heavy vehicles everywhere makes it a difficult problem to control. The selection of violence as a perceived solution in the minds of so many is troubling as it demonstrates a disintegration of our society’s ability to engage in reasoned, logical thought.
August 6, 2017
Gorski Consulting Studies Vehicle Speeds In School Zone
The City of London, Ontario in Canada has proceeded to install on-road speed signs in school zones in the belief that this expense will help to protect the safety of children travelling to school. Gorski Consulting has begun a safety study to determine if that belief is valid.
On August 4, 2017, Gorski Consulting visited one of the sites where the signs were posted on Tweedsmuir Avenue in south-east London. Six video cameras were set up to document the speed of vehicles as they approached the reduced speed zone of 40 km/h. These cameras also documented the speed of vehicles as they travelled through the zone where the speed was reduced as indicated by the in-road signs. The testing was purposely conducted between 1545 and 1645 hours when rush-hour traffic would be expected to be travelling through the residential subdivision of Fairmont where Tweedsmuir Avenue is located. The videotaped data is now being compiled to provide an objective illustration of whether the City’s money was spent wisely.
Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks as we report on our findings.
August 4, 2017
400 Series of Ontario Highways Experiencing Major Summertime Collisions
If it was not for individuals such as Sarnia, Ontario Mayor Mike Bradley, there would be no publicity what-so-ever regarding the numbers of serious collisions occurring on the 400 series of expressways in Ontario this past month. Mayor Bradley was the only individual who raised an eye-brow when he observed that several crashes of tractor-trailers were occurring on Hwy 402 near his city of Sarnia, Ontario. Bradley was the one who also expressed concern several years earlier when a vast winter-time disaster occurred when hundreds of vehicles became trapped in snow on Highway 402 resulting in his questioning why road maintenance was not keeping up with the snow.
What is not addressed by official news media is that there have been numerous serious and fatal collisions on the 400 series of highways in the past month with many similarities. Many of these collisions are involving transport trucks and rear-end impacts, fires and construction zones. Collision causation is complicated and there are many factors however these seem to be prevalent even though not publicized by the official news media. Here is a sample of some of the collisions that have occurred this month.
One July 3rd, the driver of a tractor-trailer sustained serious injuries when his truck rolled over on Highway 427 near Highway 401. No explanation was provided how the truck ended up on its side in the middle of the highway.
On July 7th, a young man was killed when his car crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Victoria Park Ave in Toronto. It was reported that the truck had slowed down for construction in the area but no other details were reported.
On July 9th serious injuries were avoided when a car and transport truck collided in the westbound lanes of Highway 401 near Highway 59 in Woodstock, Ontario. The car sustained extensive damage to its roof area likely from interaction with the truck’s trailer. It was reported that a third vehicle, a pick-up truck, may have made an unsafe lane change resulting in the avoidance actions of the other drivers. It was mere luck that nothing worse developed.
On July 11th, another collision between a tractor-trailer and car in the eastbound lanes of Highway 407 near Milton, Ontario resulted in a man being air-lifted to hospital in serious condition. The truck reportedly burst into flames but the fire was contained by fire personnel. Nothing was said about why the fire occurred as if this was a commonplace occurrence that was of no importance.
On July 13th, two separate collisions involving tractor-trailers occurred on Highway 401 near Chatham, Ontario. One of the collisions involved a fire. It was reported that a tractor-trailer was westbound when its driver lost control of the vehicle and bounced off of the “outside cement barrier”. It was then “pushed into the eastbound lane where it caught fire”. A photo of the site, shown below, suggests that there were construction vehicles near the overpass. The existence of an “outside barrier” would also suggest the presence of a construction zone. Yet those facts were not revealed.
On July 18th, a westbound Canadian Blood Services van reportedly made an unsafe lane change on Highway 401 near Ingersoll and then collided with the rear-end of a transport truck resulting in an “explosive” disintegration of the box of the van sending debris into a large area across the highway. On further review, a collision involving a lane change would normally imply two vehicles travelling at similar speeds and the explanation for the “explosive” disintegration of the van’s box in difficult to comprehend. No further details were provided.
On July 19th, a severe rear-end collision involving three transport trucks on Highway 402 near Modeland Road in Sarnia, Ontario resulted in the death of one of the truck drivers who was from Alabama. It was reported that trucks were stopped waiting to cross the Bluewater Bridge at the Canada/U.S. customs station. This was one of the collisions that raised concerns of the Mayor of the City of Sarnia.
On July 20th many drivers expressed irritation after being stuck for many hours on Highway 400 after a truck carrying dangerous goods was involved in a collision north of Canal Road, north of Toronto, Ontario. The dangerous cargo was spilled resulting in a prolonged shut down of the highway. It was not made clear why the persons who were stranded on the highway could not be temporarily re-routed off the highway but had to endure many hours of waiting without word as to when they would be released. The official police response was that they “…wished that people would have been listening to their local traffic outlets and media. People could have avoided this mess in the first place and never even gone down the highway”.
On July 21st one person was killed on Highway 400 near Rutherford Road when a vehicle collided with another vehicle that was stopped disabled on the highway. The striking vehicle then caught fire. The driver of the disabled vehicle sustained fatal injuries. It was unknown whether any of these events were related to the closure of Highway 400 from the previous day due to the dangerous goods spill. Again, nothing was said about why the striking vehicle caught fire or if any further investigation would be carried out regarding the cause of that fire.
On July 22nd a multi-vehicle collision occurred in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Warden Avenue in Toronto resulting in serious injuries to two persons. No details were provided as to how the collision occurred or what factors might have been involved.
On July 22nd a motorcyclist sustained critical injuries in a collision in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Dorchester Road east of London, Ontario. Police reported that the motorcycle sustained a mechanical failure leading to the results however no details were provided.
On July 23rd a young woman sustained critical injuries as result of single vehicle collision in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Erin Mills Parkway. Photos at the site suggest that the vehicle rolled over however no official comment was made regarding any factors that led to the crash.
On July 25th, another serious rear-end collision occurred involving three transport trucks on Highway 402 at Christina Street in Sarnia, Ontario. Although the collision resulted in only minor injuries the extent of damage demonstrated that it could easily have been much more serious. Two days later, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley along with his provincial political counterpart, MPP Bob Bailey, were reported to have sent a letter to the Ontario Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca, asking for a meeting to discuss these incidents. Meanwhile the OPP continued to express the opinion that there was nothing other than inexcusable actions of drivers that were responsible for the crashes. The OPP expressed the opinion that distracted driving was a major factor.
A day later, on July 28th, three tractor trailers were among five vehicles that crashed in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 at Merlin Road near Tilbury, Ontario. The collision occurred in a construction zone. It was never explained why, however a tractor-trailer reportedly stopped within the construction zone and this eventually resulted in the subsequent collisions. While distracted driving might have been a factor, there was no explanation provided as to why the truck had to come to a stop as if this was of no importance.
Two days later, on July 30th, another series of collisions occurred in the Chatham area. In the afternoon a westbound tractor-trailer collided with a pick-up truck near Dillon Road causing a 5-vehicle pile-up. This location is only about 8 kilometres from the Highway 401 collision site at Merlin Road that occurred only a couple of days previous. It was reported that vehicles were stopped on the highway when a transport truck ran into the back of a pick-up killing both occupants of the stopped vehicle. The traffic was stopped due to another crash which was never discussed.
Meanwhile, another collision occurred on Sunday, July 30th, near the same location of Highway 401 near Merlin Road. This was another 5-vehicle pile-up that reportedly resulted in minor injuries.
With all the collisions occurring in such a short time and within a short distance it became difficult for anyone to grasp what happened and where. There was likely construction in this area but neither the police nor the official media ever explained where the construction was and how, or if, it was related to the various collisions.
Meanwhile, on the following day, July 31st, another rear-end collision of two transport trucks occurred in the morning on Highway 401 near Avenue Road in Toronto. It was reported that a truck hauling paint came to be stopped on the right shoulder when another truck hauling “chalk” struck in in the rear. The striking truck then travelled into the centre median barrier where it caught fire. The driver of that burning truck perished. Nothing was mentioned whether the commencement of the fire was of any importance or concern. Other media reports indicated that the truck that was engulfed in fire was not carrying “chalk” but barrels of flammable paint thinner. This would be a more reasonable explanation for the explosion that was reported by some witnesses. Given the explosive result it remains to be answered whether these explosive materials were being properly transported.
Finally, on August 3th, a multi-vehicle collision occurred on Highway 401 near Port Hope, east of Toronto. An eastbound tractor-trailer collided with other eastbound vehicles resulting a fire. Investigating police commented that “traffic was slowing for construction at Burnham St., a tractor trailer collided with a pick-up truck and a sedan, resulting in a fire with all three vehicle being ignited”. Two persons were killed. Again nothing was said, nor was anything asked, about the fire and whether its occurrence was acceptable.
In fact, such commentary is standard procedure for essentially all of the collisions reported on Highway 401. Police are investigating and no one knows anything.
August 2, 2017
Latest Road Safety Facts From 2015 Lead To Some Concern
As Canada does not make available any of its traffic safety facts, the best indicator of what trends may exist is by reviewing the abundant information available from U.S. sources. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had made its annual report available about data from 2015. That data is now about 18 months old yet it presents some possible trends.
For example, it confirms that “various sources suggest that about half the motor vehicle crashes in the country are not reported to police”. This is similar to the finding by Gorski Consulting where over 80% of collisions and loss-of-control events were not reported at the specific site of the S-curve at Clarke Road in the north-east of London, Ontario.
Two observations were noted in the annual report, as follows:
-Fatal crashes increased by 7.0 percent from 2014 to 2015, and the fatality rate rose to 1.13 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2015.
-The injury rate increased by 2.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 79 persons injured per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
Yet another statistic is also revealing:
-The percent of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities has declined from 48 percent in 1982 to 29 percent in 2015.
The death and injury rates and numbers have increased yet factors such a alcohol contribution to those collisions appear to have been reduced. So what could be causing the increases?
Numerous advanced safety technologies have been coming into the marketplace should be reducing the death and injury rates. Electronic stability control is entering further into the population of vehicles on the road. Various advanced air bags are becoming more common. Automatic braking is slowly entering into the market. All these features should be leading to reduced death and injury rates, not increases.
These facts are taken from the U.S. experience. What actually has occurred in Canada is unknown but assumed to be similar. Yet who really knows?
August 1, 2017
Highway 401 Fire At Avenue Road in Toronto – Police & News Media Short On Explaining Why It Happened
In keeping with their standard approach, neither the police nor the official news media ever explained how one of the busiest highways in eastern North America was shut down for almost 12 hours due to a fire that ignited a transport truck on Monday morning, July 31, 2017.
Yes, the development of the event was noted: A truck carrying paint products was originally stopped on the right shoulder when another truck drifted into it causing the initial impact. The second truck reportedly carried on into the median barrier where it reportedly caught fire. As the second truck was carrying “skids of chalk” the cause of the blaze is not exactly obvious.
Witnesses were reportedly woken up shortly after 0500 hours by a set of two “explosions” that sounded like a bomb going off. Again, how does the transportation of chalk result in such bombings. Should we now be worried that terrorists will use this mysterious chalk as an instrument for bomb-making? Clearly something has not been properly explained.
It is understandable, with the news media being squeezed with cutbacks, that journalists are no longer investigating but merely reporting what they are told. However there are consequences to these shifts as reflected by the lack of quality information relating to potentially large disasters. Trucks carry a variety of cargo and some of it could be explosive and therefore life-threatening. Better reporting is crucial if needed changes are not perceived and hidden from public view.
July 28, 2017
Rear-end Impact in East London Demonstrates Complexity of Injury Causation and Collision Severity
A rear-end collision on Hale Street in east London, Ontario on the morning of July 28, 2017, demonstrates the complexity of injury causation and collision severity that are the subjects of many civil suits. The photo above shows the aftermath where a northbound GMC Van was struck in the rear by another northbound pick-up truck.
The damage to the rear end of the GMC van is substantial. As shown in the photo below, key ingredients to a proper investigation include the determination of the extent of crush and the extent of any “jamming” of tires that would prevent the wheels from rotating. These are elements to the determination of the extent of kinetic energy that likely existed before the impact and was dissipated via the crush and during post-impact travel of the vehicles.
Obviously the documentation of the status of crush and wheel damage cannot be left to the single vehicle but must also be performed on the striking vehicle shown below.
Documentation is not always easy as evidenced by the photo below where by-standers have blocked the view of the left front wheel and any evidence of it being jammed by the dislocated damage.
Crucial to the investigation is the documentation of the point of impact and final rest positions of the vehicles. Many times the final rest positions are not documented because the vehicles have been moved before an official investigator arrives. The point of impact may also become questionable when various emergency vehicles and by-standers drive over the evidence and destroy it. As shown in the photo below, the evidence of the point of impact is clearly visible on the road surface at the right rear corner of the fire truck.
The distance that each vehicle travelled from impact to rest gives us an indication of the post-impact speed of each vehicle and therefore how much kinetic energy was dissipated. If the only vehicle that was in motion at impact is the striking vehicle then all the kinetic energy must have been possessed by that striking vehicle and partially transferred to the struck vehicle by way of crush.
It is not always easy to determine just how much energy was dissipated from post-impact motion. It is helpful when the site evidence displays the actual path of each vehicle between impact and rest. Below we can see how a dark fluid burst out of the front end of the striking vehicle and was deposited along its path to final rest. It is this curved path that becomes helpful in establishing speed loss.
Other indications of speed loss include any scrapes on the path from dragging structures. Obviously any visible tire marks would also be of great assistance.
The determination of the speed losses and kinetic energy could be made via manual calculations however those are challenging to the investigator who can easily mis-apply the formulations or forget to consider certain aspects that could change the results. This is why most analyses are performed using computer reconstruction and simulation programs where most of the potential pitfalls of calculation are already taken into account. It is quite true that the garbage that goes in is the garbage that goes out (“GIGO”) and many who want to impress the unknowing will use such comments for their own purposes. The point is true that such computerized reconstruction and simulation programs do not guarantee that a wrong calculation will not be made, it only provides the analyst with the opportunity to get to the wrong answer faster! That being said, a computerized analysis is much more vulnerable to proper attack by an opposing expert because the “garbage in” can be easily exposed at trial whereas the mysterious, magical, manual calculations performed by an expert using his or her own personalized methods are often difficult to expose without considerable time and cost to all.
Why some persons escape major rear end collisions with relative minor injuries while others involved in apparently less severe collisions sustain long term disabling injuries is not as easy of an answer as some would make it appear. This discussion needs to be covered at another time. What is important however is that all the physical evidence of the collision be properly documented at the earliest time possible. It is when such evidence is not documented or done so poorly that many arguments and costly expert and legal discussions bring further costs and time loss in court trials. Such inefficiency is of benefit to no one except those of ill repute.
Construction Zones Rarely Discussed As Sources of Highway Collisions
A double-fatal collision occurred yesterday, July 27th, 2017 on Highway 48 north-east of Toronto, Ontario involving several trucks and an SUV. Two other persons were reported with serious injuries.
While there was plenty of video and still image documentation of the event at no time did any police or news media personnel report that the collision occurred in a construction zone, not until very late in the process, as an after thought. This is the process that continues on a regular basis.
Investigating police become the human factors specialists who are videotaped and interviewed with their wise comments that “the accident was totally avoidable” as if there was nothing that could have prevented the incident except that a driver was unusually non-observant. This is the basis upon which national collision statistics are gathered and reported when determining what are the causal factors that resulted in a collision. There is nothing wrong with that process so long as the police “expert” has the qualifications from experience and training to draw those important and influential conclusions. However that is not the case.
The police experts who prepare their reports are not trained in human factors, psychology, or human behavior. They have rarely taken anything but a minimal course in such topics. And this is reflected in the comments they give in their interviews and in the information that provide or fail to provide. This is combined with a police culture that essentially everything in traffic is related to human error or “stupidity” without much deeper thought as to how that human “error” occurred or whether that error was an expected human reaction.
The terrible tragedy of yesterday is an example of a continuous process where traffic stoppage or slowing due to a construction zone is not noted. This appears to be so because the “experts” see nothing of value to be noted about this. To them it is an obvious sign of driver “stupidity” and there is no need for further evaluation.
The problem we recognize at Gorski Consulting is that drivers have an inherent difficulty in dealing with stopped traffic when they have been travelling at highway speed and do not expect a traffic stoppage ahead of them. Blaming drivers for speeding and moving on is not a solution, it is an excuse for failing to correct a recurring problem. Drivers will push the limits as they have since they were cavemen. Risk-taking has always been part of human nature. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of human behavior would recognize this.
What is required in the present investigation is a thorough documentation of the events that led to a dump truck driver plowing into a line of stopped, or slowed vehicles. It must include a proper assessment of how the construction zone affected the traffic and what actions were taken by those who set-up the construction zone to anticipate that it could cause such rear-end impacts. Simply throwing one’s hands up in the air and declaring that all this is due to driver “stupidity” reflects more on those who make such comments and this is clear to us.
It is also demonstrative that Automatic Braking technology has the potential of becoming a true game-changer as more and more vehicles are equipped with it. It is not clear how long it will take for that technology to reach the heavy vehicle market and this is an important issue.
July 26, 2017
Deadly Vehicle Fires Persist While Police and News Media Minimize Their Significance
A tractor-trailer caught fire today on Highway 77 near Comber, Ontario after a impact with a SUV. The impact itself should have been of minimal consequence to the large truck. Yet the truck cab reportedly “exploded”. News media did not state directly which driver was killed however, since the driver of the SUV reportedly sustained life-threatening injuries this person could not also be deceased. The news media and police should have informed the public that a fire in such an occurrence should not be expected and what actions they were going to take to investigate further. As usual that did not happen.
Less than a day earlier, a young female driver escaped from a fire in her Chevrolet Silverado after her vehicle struck another pick-up truck ahead of her on London Road (Hwy 4) near Wingham. This could easily have been a fatal incident if the girl had been trapped in the vehicle and was unable to escape. Again, such an incident should not be expected. Given that all persons from both vehicles did not sustain any significant injury tells us that the impact was not of a severe nature. Thus focus should have been placed on why such a fire would commence in such a collision severity.
In both of these mentioned events the police and media have failed to raise the flag of warning and the public remains in the dark about events that could result in their death. Fires that occur in collisions cannot be treated as matter-of-fact events. They defeat any and all safety features that have been designed over the many decades that prevent injury and death. As so they cannot be treated lightly.
July 24, 2017
On-Road Speed Signs Installed in School Zones in London Ontario – Are They A Benefit Or An Additional Hazard?
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 and 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, from time to time to 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
So where is the flagman? We found him. He/she was sitting in the back of the truck, as shown in the photo below.
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
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.