A CBC photo showing an undamaged guardrail does not explain how a vehicle carrying four young victims got past a guardrail and into a pond where they drowned. Surely we should require an explanation. The photo below was posted on the CBC website reportedly showing the location where the drownings occurred.
A photo in a previous CBC article showed the end of the guardrail located behind the camera of the photo above. In that previous photo it could be seen that the guardrail ended, or began, as a buried end treatment such that the guardrail would create a ramp upon which a vehicle could be vaulted into the roadside. Such end treatments are old and known for causing such vaulting such that more current designs do not possess such end treatments. The point is that the matter is not being raised by the CBC nor is anyone else discussing its relevance. Clearly there is no information about where the vehicle exited the road and that should be made known.
While the reported heroic efforts engaged by emergency personnel to try to save the teenagers are commendable, those efforts may not have been required if an inspection of the collision site was made at some earlier point to evaluate the potential of a vehicle entering the roadside water. There in no heroism in allowing dangerous roadside conditions to exist and then hiding their relevance when a tragedy occurs.
UPDATE: April 22, 2019, 0920 hours
A CTV news video have been located discussing the collision and a video segment was shown indicating that damage existed near the end (beginning) of the guardrail which had a buried end treatment. The damage appears consistent with what would have occurred if the Nissan Rogue in which the four teenages were in vaulted over top of the barrier. Thus the CBC photo above was misleading as it showed a portion of the guardrail that was undamaged and not where the Nissan left the roadway. It is questionable why police attended a news conference without discussing the issue of the performance of the guardrail and why an inspection of the site was not conducted to assess whether it was possible for a vehicle to pass through it and enter the water. Clearly, anyone interested in the public’s safety would raise the issue.
Four teenagers drowned last night when their vehicle came to rest upside down in water on the side of Nelson Street in Miramichi, New Brunswick. This is not an isolated event. We try to highlight these tragic events where possible because many are preventable through inspection of roadways where bodies of water exist nearby. Inappropriate roadside barriers often allow vehicles to pass through them. But often there are no barriers at all. At the Nelson Street site there was a guardrail with an old design whereby the rail was buried in the ground and created a ramp as it rose to full height.
Unfortunately the CBC news article showing the site did not make it clear whether the vehicle rode over the barrier.In south-western Ontario there are numerous locations where such tragic events could exist. And many tragedies have occurred in the past without much official concern. It is of relevance that official news agencies and police speak about the sadness of families and how it is important to keep their privacy. Yet a lack of discussion is often the reason why public momentum is not generated to cause those responsible for roadside safety to conduct proper inspections and make changes to roadside conditions. It is highly likely that in this coming summer season at least one person will drown at a roadside in southern Ontario where inadequate safety features cause a vehicle to leave the road, rollover and come to rest upside down in a body of water. If public concern were to cause an inspection of these roadsides a life could be saved.
A quick review of 21 incidents in just over a year indicates that there were 14 confirmed fatalities while there was no further information on the outcome of several others. The incidents are noted below.
- On January 17, 2019 two persons drowned when their vehicle drove into the Colchester Harbour near Windsor, Ontario.
- On January 27, 2019 a person drowned when their vehicle drove into the water near Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto.
- On January 25 ,2019 a vehicle travelled off the road and fell into a swimming pool at the Courtice Community Complex near Toronto, although no harm was caused to the female driver.
- On April 17, 2018, a minivan drove into a flooded ditch at the intersection of Lighthouse and Tecumseh Road near Windsor. Although the van was partially submerged no one was injured.
- On April 22, 2018 a teenager died when a vehicle became partially submerged in a water-filled ditch off Border Road in Wallaceburg, Ontario.
- On April 22, 2018 driver was drowned when a vehicle became submerged in Big Creek off County Road 42 near Windsor, Ontario.
- On August 3, 2018, a Toyota Yaris drove in Lake Ontario near Lake Shore Boulevard and Parliament Street in Toronto. A single person was later found, deceased, in the submerged vehicle.
- On Christmas Day, 2018, two persons drowned when their vehicle plunged into a creek south-east of Goderich, Ontario.
- On December 4, 2018, a driver drowned when his vehicle drove into the water of Lake Erie near Port Bruce pier.
- On December 28, 2018, a stolen vehicle was found upside down in the Speed River in Cambridge. No information was ever provided with respect to the what happened to the occupants of the vehicle.
- On December 30, 2018, one person drowned when his vehicle became submerged in the South Saugeen River near Hanover, Ontario.
- On February 21, 2018 a mother and her toddler were swept into the Grand River near Belwood, Ontario. The toddler drowned.
- On February 19, 2018, a man died when his vehicle became submerged in a creek in Jarvis, Ontario.
- On February 10, 2018 a car was found partially submerged off of Niagara Parkway in Chippawa, Ontario. A lone occupant was found and transported to hospital but his condition was never revealed.
- On June 30, 2018 a vehicle was found submerged in the St. Clair River in Sombra, Ontario. One person was found deceased in the vehicle.
- On June 23, 2018 a vehicle drove into Lake Ontario at Ashbridges Bay near Toronto. Two occupants were able to escape without injury before the vehicle sank.
- On March 25, 2018 a vehicle plunged into Little Bear Creek northwest of Chatham however the driver was able to escape successfully.
- On November 5, 2018 a vehicle plunged into Lake Ontario in Oakville after it struck and drove through a guardrail. One occupant died.
- On October 15, 2018 a woman was able to swim to the shore after her vehicle travelled into the Thames River on Town Line Road near Chatham, Ontario.
- On October 30, 2018 a Toronto Transit Commissioner supervisor was able to escape his submerging vehicle as it became engulfed in a sink hole near Logan Ave and Commissioners Street in Toronto. The sinkhole was so large that the vehicle became fully submerged and only the glow of its lights could be seen under the water.
- On October 30, 2018, a submerged vehicle was located near a public boat launch in Bluffer’s Park in Toronto. No body was found in the vehicle.
This list is probably incomplete as it only represents what news articles have been published by a select group of news media in south-western and south-central Ontario.
The danger of roadside ditches that contain somewhat shallow levels of water is greatly under appreciated. Because of the narrowness of a ditch it does not take much rain or other water sources to bring the water level higher versus a large ditch that can hold more water at a shallower depth. When narrow ditches exist a vehicle is more likely to end up parallel to the length of the ditch and this is a crucial factor in fatality causation. By coming to rest upside down and parallel to a water-filled ditch vehicle occupants have difficulty opening their doors because the steep sides of the ditch prevent that opening. Adding cold weather makes matters worse. And if the event occurs at night it is often difficult to detect the vehicle in a deep and narrow ditch therefore rescue may be greatly delayed.
Every year the Ontario Ministry of Transportation is supposed to provide a Road Safety Annual Report which reviews all the collision facts for the particular year. However their delivery of these reports is several years behind. The most recent report showing the full data is for the year 2014. In that year the Ministry reported vehicle “Submersion” based only on whether it was the first harmful event. This data (shown on Page 48) indicated that there were only five submersions and all were property damage incidents. In other words there were no fatalities or injuries resulting from these submersions. That data becomes difficult to reconcile when we have shown in this article that there were at least 14 fatalities associated with vehicle submersions in 2018-19.Thus there can be many ways in which official statistics can provide a very misleading indication of the existence of various road safety problems. The extent of the loss-of-control, sliding into a ditch and rolling over into shallow water does not appear to be documented in any publicly available sources.
Just because a collision resulted in no injury does not mean that it was a minor incident. It is often a canary in the coal mine that we need to hear. A near-fatal collision on Highway 401 near Dutton reported on the OPP Twitter account appears to be much more important than the single sentence used to report its occurrence. The photo below was provided by the OPP along with the short description.
The OPP Twitter statement indicated that the cruiser was sideswiped yesterday along with a comment that “Lots of rain out there” and “Let’s not let this happen again”. That is not very much information about an incident that could have taken an officer’s life.
It was not noted, for example, whether an officer was seated in the cruiser when the contact occurred. But even if the officer was some distance away is not the point. An officer could easily be seated in a cruiser, like is often the case, when such an impact occurs. And even if the officer or other persons were near the struck cruiser, an impact with greater overlap could easily send the struck cruiser toward those persons standing nearby. So this is critical information that needs to be known.
Very important questions need to be answered. Where was the cruiser positioned when it was struck? It would be expected that emergency lights were activated but certainly that needs to be confirmed.
Was the cruiser the only emergency vehicle at the site when this occurred? Many times other vehicles, including blocker trucks with large arrow signs, help approaching drivers to detect how they must maneuver around a site. When large and tall transport trucks exist, which is almost invariably the case, they block the view of drivers behind and beside them. So was this an incident that involved such blockage of the line of sight?
Was the cruiser located where it was due to some kind of investigation of a previous collision? Was it there to protect a disabled and vulnerable vehicle? We know nothing of the kind.
At times when a vehicle breaks down it can be stopped in a vulnerable location where it might be struck by oncoming traffic. Persons in the disabled vehicle may have to make an uninformed judgment whether to stay in the vehicle and risk being struck by a massive transport truck or attempt to cross the lanes of the highway on foot and risk being struck. So the involvement of a police cruiser with emergency lights can (sometimes) improve the chances of guiding approaching traffic away from a disabled vehicle. Again, we know nothing about whether this was a possibility in this specific instance.
We have posted a number of articles and news items on this Gorski Consulting website in the past in an attempt to describe the danger that exists whenever an OPP officer attempts a traffic stop on a 400 series highway such the 401. While it may be somewhat safer to perform such an action in the lower traffic volumes near Dutton, it can be extremely dangerous in the higher traffic volumes east of where Highway 402 merges with Highway 401 through the 200 kilometres toward Toronto and further eastward. Controlling speeds of vehicles is of obvious importance and when there are high traffic volumes, with tailgating being the norm, police can believe that a few traffic stops for speeding tickets can make the difference. Unfortunately, unless there is a very large increase in police presence for an extended time, those few traffic stops can produce more harm than good because of the unexpected chaos that develops around such stops.
It is of vital importance that if a traffic stop is unavoidable that the police officer study the situation of where the stop is made and what potential there is that the cruiser could be struck. The obvious consideration is that the cruiser needs to pulled over as far as absolutely possible, onto the right side of the highway and off of the shoulder, where possible. We have commented on the positioning of the cruiser if there has been another vehicle pulled over ahead of it and where this positioning may be of some help. But the approach of a loaded tractor-trailer that wanders toward the cruiser will make all these positioning issues irrelevant. When outside the cruiser police and others need to stay as far to the right and away from active lanes as possible. And all involved must grow another set of eyes (those extra eyes that a mother develops from monitoring a toddler) to constantly watch traffic for the potential development of something dangerous. This can be extremely stressful to officers who must also fill-out paperwork or make inputs to a computer while also monitoring the individual they have pulled over.
So we need some solutions that may be difficult to achieve. But we also need to recognize and accept that problems exist. The OPP twitter notification indicated that the involved police officer was “Beyond upset”. Other than the acceptable fact that such a reaction would be expected from anyone, we also cannot approach this problem from the viewpoint that being upset, making accusations or uninformed comments is a solution on its own. We can see every day whenever a controversial incident occurs that there are large numbers of instant experts who post on social media about what the obvious problems and solutions are, accompanied by vulgar and abusive expletives. Those persons have to be tolerated for the purposes of maintaining our even more important freedom of speech.
However for those responsible for an objective evaluation of what needs to be changed, proper and detailed documentation, with a minimum of bias, that results in high quality data is an absolute must. Providing a single sentence about an incident of such importance as the possibility of a police officer’s death is well below the degree of effort that needs to be expended. The next OPP cruiser struck on Highway 401 could result in much more tragedy and we owe it to the OPP officers and their families to make sure we have done all we can to keep them safe.
The fact that drivers have difficulty with slowing or stopped traffic was not mentioned in the latest reporting of a fatal, rear-end impact that occurred on Highway 401 near Guelph Line yesterday. While the OPP were helpful in their posting of three photos of the results of the crash, nothing further was revealed or learned from the tragedy. Here are the photos provided by the OPP.
What is even more revealing is that certain results exist that should have been discussed in a public venue.
Firstly, although the Honda sustained a substantial impact to its rear-end that should not have been of sufficient severity to cause fatal injuries to a right front occupant. Again, it has not been revealed that the deceased was actually in the right front seat but that is a very high probability whenever there are only two persons seated in a passenger car. So what caused the fatal injuries? That was one of the observant questions put out by a commenter on social media. What often happens in this scenario is that the initial rear-end impact causes the passenger to become out-of-position (OOP) during the subsequent frontal impact. Specifically, the passenger is thrown forward after the initial, rearward motion from the rear-end impact. When the passenger is thrown forward her upper body comes to be positioned too close to the airbag when it deploys and we have an air-bag induced fatality. So is this what happened? If it did then it needs to be identified. Police cannot hold back such important information that is critical to the public’s safety. While we understand the enormous safety benefits of airbags we also need to identify when they cause injury as this is the only way that we can draw attention to the fact that solutions need to be found.
Secondly, we see the obvious fact that the pick-up truck was hauling a large trailer where its stopping ability may be suspect. Only police who have access to the critical information about braking ability can know for sure. But we need comment on this issue from police for the same reasons as we need them for the Honda airbag concerns.
While an OPP video provided comments about how the road surface was dry and it was sunny, etc., it remains questionable why the windshield wipers on the Honda were stuck up on the windshield as if they were being used. Granted, because of the two impacts, something may have triggered the activation of the wipers but it needs further evaluation.
In the video the OPP also commented about not knowing why traffic had slowed or come to a stop. Anyone who has spent any time on Highway 401 approaching eastbound to Highway 25 would know that this is were traffic changes from highway speeds to a major slow-down or complete stop. It happens almost every day. To say one was confused over that occurrence appears unrealistic. Traffic slow-downs or stopping on high-speed expressways such as Highway 401 are a major problem that is not being addressed. Police and the Ministry of Transportation are blaming drivers for being inattentive. This is like blaming the worker for his own death when a machine does not contain a guard which prevents the workers hands from being placed in a wood-shaving operation and thus being pulled into the cutting mechanism. Yes, it is the workers fault, but the conditions in which the worker operates makes it highly likely that, eventually, he will make such a deadly mistake. The solution has to be in exploring an adjustment (i.e.e adding a guard to a cutting machine) that takes into account the probability that a human will make a mistake due to the extremely large number of times that a repetitive action takes place. So returning to the collision scenario, a vast number of drivers avoid collisions with stopped or slowed traffic but because of the vast number of occurrences that take place every day, there will always be a driver who will make an isolated mistake. In the area of Milton the Average Annual Traffic Volume (AATV) is well over 100,000 vehicles per day. It might only require 1 out of 100,000 of these drivers to make a mistake in order to result in a fatality, every day. The problem is complicated by the fact that these 100,000 drivers, fitted into a confined area of the highway, will tailgate even when their line of sight is greatly reduced by factors such as large trucks and unexpected lane closures due to previous collisions.
Blame is easy as it requires no action to improve safety conditions. Admitting to safety problems, in this age of the public’s reckless need for vengeance, where a solution is difficult to find, remains political and/or career suicide.
In the field of motor vehicle collision reconstruction I have occasions to examine how the legal system functions with respect to persons charged with various crimes related to motor vehicle collisions. At times I have been approached by persons looking to defend themselves while also possessing limited resources. Over the years I have also observed various legal entities discussing the problems with self-representation before the courts. These self-representations occur because those charged do not have the funds to hire lawyers and associated collision reconstruction experts. It has been noted that these self-representations add to the wasting of court time when the self-representing individual does not have a clue about court proceedings. It also leads to the obvious problems that individuals are found guilty of crimes, or of greater crimes, not because they are more deserving but because their financial situation causes their poor performance before the courts.
In the most recent budget of Premier Ford’s Ontario government which was disclosed this week, it was revealed that the Legal Aid system in Ontario will see a cut of $133 million, or almost 30%, from the system’s budget. While the Ford government claimed that this will enhance the program’s search for innovative ways of delivering aid, the obvious reality is that this is a clear cutting of the funds that provide a minimal level of justice to those who cannot be properly represented in court.
The repercussions of such cuts may be difficult to match, one-to-one, as direct relationships of cause and effect. Those persons who are charged and convicted will likely be sent to jail or face other punishments more than their wealthy neighbours. But, over time, there will be repercussions.Those repercussions may not show up in government statistics as related to legal aid cuts. Those repercussions will exhibit themselves in the increased numbers of individuals who are sent to jail, come out, repeat their crimes, and are sent back to jail. There will be more homeless persons who will never escape their plight. There will be more persons who become regularly involved in petty crimes and who graduate to more serious crimes that become dangerous to our society. There will be more children, observing the injustices done to their parents, who will harbour their resentments that will be difficult to detect and more difficult to erase.They will relate to more gangs and criminal organizations who will prey on society even more than they do now. When we scratch our heads and wonder where all these dangerous persons came from we can be sure that actions such as cutting legal aid and many similar social programs will be well hidden from our conscious psyche.
Mr. Ford is a patient gardener who is dutifully incubating his precious seedlings of baby criminals. Watering and fertilizing them through the cutting of social programs, such that in 5, 10 or 20 years he will have a very fine crop of criminals that will be roaming our streets for a generation to come.