What has been revealed about the ability to detect non-alcohol drug impairment now that legalization of cannabis has taken place in Canada? For decades there has been a focused attention placed on alcohol impairment and various statistics have shown its relevance to major-injury and fatal collisions. Yet essentially nothing was mentioned about non-alcohol, drug impairment. It is only now that a discussion is developing because of concerns expressed that police may have limited ability to detect driver impairment due to cannabis use.
In a recently publicized letter from Ontario Premier Doug Ford to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the reality was noted that only a single piece of drug detection equipment, the Drager DrugTest 5000, has recently been made available to police. But how recently? How many of these machines were available to police 2 years ago, or 5 years ago, or 10 years ago? The truth emerges that likely very little, if any, objective testing was available even a short while before cannabis legalization. So what was the public being told during these many years and why was this problem not made more widely known?
Even though cannabis can be detected a further discussion is revealing that it is difficult to determine what levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, constitute impairment. However this cannot be a new finding. Surely this was known since the decades of use in the well-known activities of youth in the 1960s and onward.
If nothing more, this discussion reveals how important factors in the causation of motor vehicle collisions are officially withheld from public knowledge. There are many unpleasant realities, like non-alcohol drug impairment, that do not have an immediate solution. The hiding of these problems become of way of not having to face them in the public domain. Yet their hiding is also the mechanism that prevents their resolution.
There is a developing belief that privately-administered, mandatory, truck driver training will create reductions in the frequency and consequences of truck collisions. These reductions must out weigh the generated costs that are monetary but will also include a reduction in the numbers of available truck drivers and a reduction in the numbers of smaller, independent trucking firms. This belief cannot be based on a naive belief that the data collected on truck collisions can be relied upon to accurately identify the true cause of truck crashes. These are some of the issues that need consideration.
Failure to release evidence regarding any major incident causes many unwarranted conclusions to be drawn. That observation has been demonstrated many times in history.
Thus it is so with the tragic multiple fatalities that occurred April 7, 2018 when the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus collided with a commercial truck at the intersection of Saskatchewan Highways 335 and 35. Even though essential facts about how and why the collision occurred have not been made available many have already drawn conclusions as to how “the problem” should be fixed. To many “the problem” is already known and obvious. That is the true problem.
Officials who have control over transportation issues have used the Humboldt Broncos tragedy as the reason for making changes to how trucking firms will operate. Whether or not such changes may be warranted and correct must be independent of the issues of the Humboldt Broncos crash until essential facts are revealed. Even then, there is no guarantee that the procedures and analysis that were employed by investigators will correctly identify the true causes.
Most recently the operator of the trucking firm that collided with the bus has been reportedly charged with a number of non-compliance matters relating to the operation of his firm. While these are important matters they may be totally irrelevant to determining the cause of the crash. Yet the perception in the public’s eye is that it is somehow connected to the cause of the crash.
The public must understand that the ability to critically evaluate information that is provided through main stream news media, and more recently social media, is essential to the proper functioning of our society. Hysteria, bias and emotional reactions are not good factors to employ when it is essential that the root cause of an incident is properly revealed. Yet these are the factors that reveal themselves when essential facts about an incident are not made available. There are costs and benefits that need to be understood whenever decisions are made about the timing of the release of such critical evidence.
Unsecured loads are a danger to the occupants of a vehicle and this is an issue that is often misunderstood.
Constable Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) posted several photos on the OPP West twitter account showing a van loaded with various supplies and equipment, including a law tractor. These photos are re-produced below.
The danger of insecure loads does not lie just with the possibility that they may spill onto the roadway. But there are grave dangers that exist for the vehicle occupants if such a loaded vehicle is involved in a significant impact.
In the last of the three photos shown above the pile of lumber clearly blocks the driver’s view of anything to the right of the vehicle. In such an instance a collision is more likely to occur. The type of collision that might occur is not guaranteed and could involve a significant impact to the side, front or even to the rear of the vehicle. The results of such impacts can be complicated but previous investigations show how they can be deadly.
As an example, say that you have a 100 kg load in the back of your van. In a significant impact your vehicle may be slowed down by 40 km/h. Converted, this is equivalent to a change-in-velocity of about 11.11 metres per second. But such major collisions are often completed in about 1/10th of a second. So, in fact, the change-in-velocity is actually 10 times higher or equivalent to 400 km/h, or 111 metres per second. A “g” is the acceleration attained due the earth’s gravitational pull which is equal to 9.81 metres per second squared. As an example, if you jump off a cliff your body will be accelerated toward the ground at a rate of 9.81 metres every second. Thus in terms of ‘gs’ the rate at which you slow down in a 40 km/h impact is about 111 divided by 9.81 or about 11.3 gs.
Another way to look at it is to have a 200 pound man sit on your chest and you can appreciate the difficulty you might experience. Now multiply that weight by 11, or 2200 pounds, and this is the type of force we are dealing with. Is this healthy? Could you survive a 2200 pound weight being applied to your chest? That is the weight of a small car. Clearly not.
Returning to the example of our improperly loaded van, there is a lawn tractor positioned in the rear and there is no indication that it is tied down in any way to the structure of the vehicle. How much does a lawn tractor like this weight? Using the example above, it could surely weight 200 pounds. Now, what could happen if our van driver is involved in the 40 km/h change-in-velocity we discussed above? This lawn tractor is now an unsecured “cannon ball” that continues to travel forward within the vehicle interior even though the vehicle itself is being stopped by the force of the impact.
So let us say the van driver is wearing his seat-belt and the air bag deploys thus providing excellent protection. But what about that unsecured “cannon ball” that has not been slowed down by a seat belt or air bag. This 2200 pound object now drivers into the rear of the driver’s seat back after the driver and van have lost most of their forward motion.
Stop and think for a moment. Do you really think that automotive engineers are so cleaver that they can devise the creation of a seat back that can stop a 2200 pound object in a fractional distance that could be needed to protect the driver? Wonderful things have been accomplished but this miracle is still awaiting discovery. Essentially nothing will stop this extreme weight from striking the driver. What can be beneficial is if the object can be re-directed so that it travels to another part of the interior that does not contain a passenger.
So my recommendations are as follows. Number one, never allow such a situation to occur as shown in the photos above. The cost of using a small trailer or other vehicle which can transport your equipment and heavy supplies is worth the additional cost in comparison to losing your life.
Secondly, if you absolutely need to carry some relatively heavy cargo in your vehicle’s interior there are procedures that can be used to minimize your danger. For a frontal impact recognize that most severe frontal impacts will involve the left portion of the front end and this will induce counter-clockwise rotation. Thus, if you are not carrying passengers on the right side of vehicle, place the heavy object on the right side of your vehicle. When the typical, severe, frontal impact occurs the heavy cargo is more likely to travel into the right portion of the interior and you could be saved.
Next, place your have cargo as low as possible, like on the floor for example. Consider also whether you have created the undesirable conditions that could cause the cargo to be ramped upward during a severe impact and make proper adjustments where possible.
Thirdly, place your cargo in contact with a solid portion of the vehicle interior. By doing so you may be able cause the cargo to begin slowing down as early as possible, or close to the timing of the slowing of the vehicle structure.
And fourthly, and most importantly, secure the cargo to the structure of your vehicle so that it has an opportunity to ride down the collision along with the vehicle structure. If you like, view this as a “seat-belt” for your cargo.
None of the above procedures can prevent you from sustaining major or fatal injuries when carrying heavy cargo but they can minimize the chances. Otherwise, understand the dangers and use the proper vehicle for such transportation.
It is as if the City of Hamilton has been living in a cave. Throughout North America various news agencies have reported on the questionable performance of guardrail terminals. Gorski Consulting has posted examples of several incidents along Hamilton’s Red Hill Valley Parkway where guardrail terminals do not appear to be performing as they should. Local news media have reported that there is a higher number of fatal collisions along the Red Hill Valley Parkway. Yet when a questionable incident occurs, like the one shown in the above photo, there is silence.
The above photo was taken by John Rennison of the Hamilton Spectator Newspaper. Text accompanying the photo indicated that the incident occurred on Hamilton’s Red Hill Valley Parkway near Barton Street, but there was no information about injuries. Yet clearly someone has missed the boat. Regardless of whether injuries occurred one only needs to look at the deformation of the guardrail and the damage to the car and, with very little research, learn that there could be a problem here.
As best can be determined from a single photo it appears that the vehicle slid sideways into the end of the guardrail .There is an ET-Plus terminal at the end of the guardrail. Although the image shows few details it appears that initial contact of the terminal was made at the driver’s door and then the system buckled. A small amount of the rail was squeezed through the terminal thus indicating that some degree of longitudinal force was applied to the terminal. The system is designed so that the pre-impact kinetic energy possessed by the vehicle is dissipated by squeezing and deforming the rail as it passes through the throat of the terminal. But clearly very little of that action occurred. Yet we see that the rail has buckled and its “spear” is ready to penetrate the vehicle’s interior via the driver’s door. This appears to be the classic malfunction that was reported by Mr. Jesse Harmon in his law suite against the terminal manufacturer Trinity Highway Products of Dallas Texas. But no one seems to recognize it. What if the vehicle had been travelling slightly faster and the spear harpooned the driver? Is that what would need to take place for someone to wake up and recognize the potential problem?
Incidents like this should be documented thoroughly and the reason for the apparent malfunction should be explained. They certainly should not be left as a passing thought on the back pages of any journalist’s report.