It cannot be sufficient to provide confusing information about a double-fatal collision because the death of any member of the public needs to be reliably explained. Persons die mysteriously in unexplained ways in unlawful countries where dictators rule and mobs roam.
Both CTV News and the London Free Press reported that, on August 28, 2020, two vehicles were eastbound on Highway 2 in Zorra Township just west of Woodstock Ontario when they collided resulting in the death of two occupants of an SUV. It would be unusual that both agencies could be wrong about the vehicle travel directions therefore it is likely that they obtained this information from a police news release.
We have not been able to locate a photo from the investigating OPP showing the collision site. Such photos are often attached on their Twitter account. But not this time.
A photo was attached to the CTV News article. Unfortunately, news agencies view their photos as proprietary so we cannot show the photo in this article. The photo showed a view looking generally eastward from the north side of Highway 2. The photo showed a white stake truck straddling the westbound lane and pointing generally northward. So if the stake truck was initially travelling eastbound then it rotated almost 90 degrees to it final rest position. The stake truck also exhibited frontal crush that appeared to be predominantly on the left of its front end. The photo provided a poor indication of the Stake truck’s damage but this is the best that we can say. So up to this point the evidence is not contradictory. The photo also showed an SUV in the north ditch pointing generally in a north-east. But the SUV was partially obscured by bushes this only the rear end and the rear of the left side of the SUV were visible. It was reported that the two deceased occupants were in that SUV. All these verbal descriptions would have been unnecessary if the photo was allowed to be shown. At a time when the public has developed a short attention span detailed verbal descriptions are unlikely to be understood except by those few who have some specific focus.
Now here is the confusing part of this scenario: The rear end of the SUV showed little or no evidence of contact damage.
Putting these facts together, the official reports indicate that both vehicles were eastbound and the stake truck had direct-contact damage to the left of its front end. So there should be damage on the rear end of the SUV that would match with the frontal damage to the SUV. But the photo does not show any damage to the rear end of the SUV. So readers must puzzle over this confusing information.
The CTV photo shows that Oxford Rd 45 is in the foreground and this road intersects with Highway 2. The debris field is located only a few metres east of the intersection of the two roads. So could the SUV have come out of Oxford Road 45 just before impact? Thus there could be damage to the right side of the SUV that is not visible in the photo. But why would police state that both vehicles were eastbound when clearly that would not provide a coherent explanation of what took place?
If there was damage to either of the sides of the SUV it would not explain why both occupants were killed. Clearly contact to the right side of the SUV from the Stake truck which is generally travelling the same direction as the SUV cannot produce the type of crush that could threaten the life of an occupant seated on the far side of the SUV.
In subsequent articles posted on September 11, 2020, news agencies reported that the 27-year-old driver of the Stake truck was charged with two counts of Careless Driving Causing Death. An additional photo was posted in the CTV News article which showed a closer view of the rear end and left side of the SUV. The SUV was still in the ditch so parts of it were hidden by tall brush. This additional photo showed some minimal damage to the left-rear bumper of the SUV at its tail pipe. But this minimal damage was not consistent the substantial damage a the left portion of the Stake truck’s front end.
So from the charges laid against the Stake truck driver we must surmise that the collision occurred because the driver did something that was improper. The collision could not have occurred whereby the Stake truck attempted to pass the SUV because the damage to the Stake truck is on the left portion of its front end. And, if the Stake truck driver was eastbound then its travel direction was not controlled by a stop sign or traffic signal. So that cannot explain why the Stake truck driver was charged. And the evidence does not support a possible rear-end impact scenario although that cannot be fully excluded. While the SUV may have struck some solid object within the ditch, thus creating substantial frontal damage and thereby explaining the reason for the death of the two occupants, one would think that police would have reported such an important fact.
So there is no logical explanation for the evidence visible in the photos if indeed both vehicles were eastbound before the impact. There has been a very poor explanation of the evidence. There has to be some accountability by police and official news media for such results. When persons die the reasons for why and how they die cannot be known only to the select few. One need not look far into the past to understand that in many parts of the world the deaths of innocent persons have been a frivolous matter. It requires that we accept our responsibility to ensure that all lives matter.
The best that can be said about police actions is that they posted photos of a harpooned vehicle so that the public could consider the consequences. Only a couple of news agencies picked up on the story, as if it was of minimal importance.
Nipissing West OPP reported on their Twitter account that on Saturday morning, September 5, 2020, a southbound vehicle struck a guard rail “which went through the veh”. The collision occurred on Highway 69 near Sudbury, Ontario, but no specific location was noted. It was reported that the 52-year-old female driver sustained a severed foot. To add insult to injury the OPP charged the driver with Careless Driving. At no point did police make the public aware of the inappropriate functioning of the barrier system or that the existence of such a system could pose a life-threatening situation to other future drivers.
The following three photos represent the remaining ones posted by the OPP to their twitter account.
What is revealing in these photos is that the OPP must be incapable of understanding the importance of what needs to be revealed to the public. This is so because of the fact that in neither of the photos did they show the end of the guardrail that would have been the “point of the spear” that commenced the harpooning of the vehicle. Otherwise it would have to be believed that this was done on purpose, which would be difficult to conceive.
It is difficult to accept that the OPP would not be aware of the controversy surrounding harpooning of vehicles that has been in the news media for at least the last 7 or 8 years. It was initially alleged that such harpooning was being caused by a specific guardrail terminal, the ET-Plus terminal, manufactured by Trinity Highway Products of Dallas Texas.
As an example of the many news articles written on the subject, Global News wrote an article in October, 2015 entitled “Controversial guardrail system installed on roads across Canada”. In that article Global News reported that approximately “5,000 steel beam energy attenuating guide rail terminals have been installed on provincial highways throughout Ontario, with the majority of the systems being manufactured by Trinity Highway Products”. At that time there were allegations that the ET-Plus had an undisclosed design change that could “cause it to act like a spear on impact slicing through cars and amputating legs”. After these allegations “approximately 40 states suspended installations of the device” and “The US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also decided to gather information on how the ET-Plus was performing on the roads and conduct a series of crash tests”. Controversy surrounded these activities that to this day has not been fully cleared. Yet it can be observed that many jurisdictions, including Ontario, have been quietly installing different terminals from other manufacturers without explaining why this decision was made. What remains is that there are still numerous installations of ET-Plus terminals existing throughout Ontario’s highway system.
So it remains a mystery why the OPP photos of the vehicle and site did not include a photo which could allow a determination whether the harpooned vehicle in the above photos had interacted with an ET-Plus terminal. Similarly the few official news media that took up the story also did not inform the public of the possible historical controversy that has existed over recent years.
The point is that, regardless of what system was installed at the site, the public should not accept that a vehicle should be harpooned in this fashion. This is a potentially deadly outcome that was avoided in this unique instance by pure luck. Neither investigating police nor official news media made the public aware of this fact. This is a very disappointing inaction by those who are entrusted in protecting and informing the public of deadly dangers on our highways.
Official news media reported that a 77-year-old cyclist was killed when he was struck by a pick-up truck as he tried to cross Gainsborough Road in west London, Ontario on Saturday, September 5, 2020. The view available to the pick-up truck driver is shown in the above photo, taken on September 6th. It can be seen that the cycling trail is not visible and there is no signage to warn drivers that cyclists might be crossing.
As active transportation has become a big issue in the last few years cities like London Ontario have been trying to play catch up by installing various cycling infrastructure without much attention to details such as cyclist safety. Cycling paths are no different than roadways that carry motorized traffic; both require proper design, correct signage and regular maintenance. In particular roadway design has understood the importance of providing sufficient visibility. That must also apply to the design of cycling paths. At the Gainsborough site shown above, trees and shrubs exist all the way up to the edge of the traffic-way such that neither the cyclist nor the motor vehicle driver have sufficient time and distance to detect the other’s existence. Problems like these need to be detected and corrected before a tragedy occurs, but that is not happening quickly enough.
One of the reasons for this delay is that a vast number of collisions, whether involving motorized vehicles, or cyclists, are not officially documented. In a previous post to this website on November 21, 2018 we quoted research by D. Shinar et. al., in an article published in the Accident Analysis & Prevention journal (January, 2018) that estimated the percentage of cyclist collisions reported in 17 nations. That research concluded that only about 10% of such collisions were officially reported.
Gorski Consulting has found similar results with motorized collisions, even though our research has been made difficult to publicize in Canada. Our study of the collisions at a single site, Clarke Road in the north-east sector of London, also showed that collisions at the S-curve north of Fanshawe Park Road were rarely documented in official police records in comparison to the physical evidence that was documented at the site. While the evidence indicated that most of the unreported collisions were minor it demonstrates that the opportunity to gain evidence of road safety problems was lost.
The problem is compounded when the evidence from serious collisions like the one on the Gainsborough Road site is never publicly shared. The results of police investigations simply become filed with unknown entities. Local news media reported that police used a drone to document the collision evidence at the Gainsborough site. Other technology such as total stations and expensive cameras demonstrate the use of public funds to collect evidence that, in turn, is never shared with the public for the public’s benefit.
A news article published by the London Free Press on September 6, 2020 entitled “Cyclist who came upon fatal crash scene thinks poor sightlines a factor”, quoted a longtime cyclist, Glynn Davies, who observed “When you’re coming from the north of the bike path, there’s bushes on the right, so you would have to come pretty cautiously to get across the road. It could be dangerous…You can’t see long distance…beyond the sidewalk to make sure that nothing’s coming”. Unofficial observations like these are logical and should also have been made by official entities such as police investigators. Unfortunately, while police are sure to document and report on speeding, impairment or driver distraction, they continually fail to report equally dangerous factors related to roadway design, signage and maintenance.
With respect to cycling infrastructure there is little or no public information available about cyclist traffic volumes or numbers of collisions outside of the roadway system used by motor vehicles. The City’s Multi-use Path system for example seems to be used increasingly due to factors such as the Covid-19 epidemic, yet safety concerns on the system have remained for many years without official acknowledgement.
Some examples of problems on the Multi-Use Path system are shown below, documented in August of 2013. In the two images below orange paint was used with considerable effect to highlight the problems but this paint is usually “road paint” that fades away within a couple of weeks or months.
The above photo showing the concrete pillar next to the cycling path was made more visible in 2010 when graffiti vandals painted it, as shown below.
Other dangers are rarely highlighted as shown in the additional two photos below, also taken in August of 2013. A structural hazard has existed on the path at the railway bridge east of Adelaide Street in that visibility is extremely limited. A mirror had been installed next to the edge of the path a number years earlier but that was vandalized and never replaced.
In the two photos shown below, taken in September of 2010, the end of a pipe is sticking out of the path surface at the intersection of Blackfriars bridge in downtown London. No paint markings exist to highlight its presence.
Many safety concerns remain on London’s Multi-use Path system that are not acknowledged or made known to the unsuspecting public. This is particularly concerning when the system is used by many vulnerable persons such as children, the elderly or persons who are inexperienced riders.
It can be a challenge to the City of London to address these problems and that has to be acknowledged. Yet the City, like all cities in Ontario, must balance the need to acknowledge problems with the advice of their risk management departments who insist that such acknowledgement will place them in a position of civil liability. Above all it is this threat of civil litigation that keeps many municipal safety problems from being publicly acknowledged and therefore an impetus to pay for corrections is lost. Many taxpayers, if they are aware of the dangers of leaving safety problems uncorrected, would gladly accept the additional taxes, rather than paying the large costs of risk management departments and their high cost-lawyers.
The City of London Ontario has put up some interesting “Zipper Merge” signs in the construction zone on Highbury Ave. The signs are supposed to encourage drivers to use a “zipper merge” technique that, so far, has been ignored by Ontario drivers.
Below is a frame taken from video during observations of traffic at the Highbury Ave site on September 3, 2020. The green “Zipper Merge” signs can be seen posted along the median of the highway but almost all drivers continue to use the right lane. When a vehicle tries to use the left lane, as shown in the frame below, vehicles, particularly large trucks, will pull out and block the left lane preventing “speeders” and “cheaters” from taking advantage of the left lane to pass the slow or stopped traffic.
The extent of exclusive usage of the right lane is obvious in the two additional frames shown below.
There are many problems that develop during this warfare, some that become dangerous. When the left lane is free of traffic the few vehicles that use that lane will travel at very high speeds because of the 100 km/h posted speed. This speed occurs just next to traffic that may be stopped in the right lane. At times drivers in the right lane decide to pull out of the right lane into the left lane, sometimes from a dead stop. This leads to very dangerous differences in speed that could lead to high speed crashes. This is just one of the problems that exists in construction zones that is not discussed.
Gorski Consulting has been monitoring the construction zone on Highbury Ave in London this past summer to gain some insight into some of the factors that lead to collisions in expressway construction zones. We hope to post additional articles on this issue on the Gorski Consulting website in the coming weeks.
Two cyclists reportedly collided in a bike trail near Lakeshore (east of Windsor), Ontario on September 1, 2020, resulting in life-threatening injuries to one of them. Examination of the site on Google Maps indicates that it contains a severe lack of visibility around sharp curves that are bordered by a tall fence. Neither police nor official news media have provided any explanation whether these path features were related to the cyclists’ impact. Yet the presence of these deficiencies cannot be ignored.
The following three images are taken from Google Maps and they show are area on the bike trail where the collision occurred.
The two views below provide a view looking west toward the bike path. It can be seen that the path contains sharp curves and a fence that is located immediately next to the edge of the path. This combination would make it difficult for cyclists to see each other as they approach from opposite directions. The specific location where the impact occurred was likely just beyond the views shown in the figures below. Investigating police have not made images of the specific location available to the public. The Windsor Star has provided some images apparently showing two bicycles on the path with police conducting examinations but we are not allowed to show these photos.
Issues important to identifying road road safety problems must be made known to the general public but often they are not. In the present instance the investigating police have not provided basic information about how this collision occurred or what factors may have been relevant. Official news media can fill in some of the blanks with on-site photos but it is apparent that they also will not allow their photos to be shown except through their own outlets.
In this context information about serious injuries and deaths becomes a commodity, being sold and traded like pork bellies on the stock market with little regard to the right of the public to be informed about dangers that could kill them.