Basic information about the cause of roadway fatalities is increasingly unavailable. Some of this may be related to the challenging financial situation most official, news-gathering organizations are faced with. As the public increasingly looks to social media for their communications and information the life of the professional news journalist appears to be taking a beating. Many unofficial accounts of fatal collisions can see observed in various social media posts provided by “witnesses”. Some of this information can be unique and helpful, while some is uninformed, biased and misleading. While police provide some basic information including some on-site photos, that cannot take the place of the professional journalist whose reports have been, historically, less unbiased, less prone to provide information for propaganda purposes and also provides more detail and investigative findings.
A fatal rollover collision on Highbury Ave just north of London, Ontario is an example of the problems that exist. Media reports indicated that a Ford Mustang rolled over into a ditch and a young female was ejected. While the collision was reported to occur near Bryanston and “at Fourteen Mile Road” that information was imprecise and there was no information about the travel direction of the vehicle.
A brief examination of the site by Gorski Consulting revealed that the Mustang was travelling northbound. It travelled into the east ditch a few hundred metres south of Fourteen Mile Road, or just south of the well-known Devises Cheese Factory location at Fourteen Mile Road. Upon entering the ditch the vehicle had been rotating counter-clockwise such that it was sliding sideways, leading with its right side, when its wheels and under-carriage dug into the earth which propelled it into the lateral rollover. Although no measurements were taken, the distance travelled during the rollover was substantial, indicating a relatively high speed.
The photo below shows a northward view along Highbury Ave looking toward the red building of the Devises Cheese factory at the Fourteen Mile Road intersection in the background. Our black vehicle can be seen parked on the west roadside adjacent to the area where the Mustang left the road surface. In the foreground there is a light-coloured scrape in the middle of the northbound lane.
The photo below shows a closer view of the scrape in the northbound lane. It’s light colour indicates that it is fresh. The scraping evidence within the mark indicates that the object that caused the marking was moving parallel to the roadway.
The photo below shows a close-up view of the parallel scrapes within the mark. Such evidence is not commonly related to rollover events. In this case there is no connection between this mark and the other collision evidence that is further to the north. Yet collision evidence does not explain why the northbound vehicle left the roadway and police have not provided any explanation.
The collision evidence was located further to the north at the location of our parked vehicle. The photo below shows our parked vehicle on the west roadside. The tire marks from the Mustang entering the east gravel shoulder can be seen approximately opposite from the car’s parked position. Although this view is slightly out of focus, there is a faint, curved, black, tire mark in the foreground of the northbound lane which was likely caused by the Mustang before it left the road. That black tire mark is fully within the northbound lane and there is not evidence of the Mustang travelling into the opposing lane or onto any of the shoulders prior to its travel off the road.
Thus this is uncommon since, in a majority of instances, a vehicle that is involved in a single-vehicle rollover is often involved in several motions, back and forth, as it slips into progressively greater clockwise and counter-clockwise “yawing” rotations that eventually lead to a final exit from a road surface. Such motions are often visible for several hundred metres before the actual location of exit from the road. But in the present case we just see the single tire mark in the northbound lane indicating that the vehicle left the road surface in an apparent, abrupt motion, without any evidence of the noted, yawing.
For completeness the two photos below show the evidence produced by the Mustang as it entered the east roadside and commenced its rollover.
Given that seat-belt usage is very high, it needs to be explained why the female passenger of the Mustang was ejected from the vehicle. In some instances police will indicate that an ejection occurred even though the occupant was primarily within the vehicle but the upper body was exposed to the outside from such conditions as roof displacement. While such instances are not common they need to be revealed when they occur so that the occurrence of this undesirable outcome is properly exposed.
While further information may be revealed, it is unlikely that the public will be provided with a properly detailed explanation about how and why this collision occurred and whether the fatal injuries should be expected. Invariably the official comment that is delivered is that police “are still conducting their investigation” and the results of that investigation are never made public.
Through its taxes the public provides the funds for police to conduct their collision investigations. While the results of these data and reports are needed to develop the proper policies at government levels, that cannot be the sole reason for this activity. Presently the results of such police investigations never see the light of day, even when matters reach a criminal trial or civil litigation. While general comments are passed on by police about roadway safety, such propaganda rarely hits home as the public rarely appreciates that these comments have connections to real-life consequences.
Questions need to be answered how an explosion occurred after a vehicle struck a house on the evening of August 14, 2019, on Woodman Ave in London, Ontario.
Early reports indicate that a vehicle struck a gas meter of the struck house and this may have led to the explosion. It may be necessary to consider how vulnerable such meters are to vehicle impacts in general. Similarly a large truck may strike a larger gas installation or other facility that could create the potential for major consequences. Inquiries are needed.
Median barriers that are too low cause heavy vehicles to rollover and increase the severity of collision consequences. Such was the apparent case in a double-fatal collision that occurred on the eastbound Highway 401 at Dixie Road last evening, August 11, 2019. Preliminary comments by the OPP indicated that a Corvette was changing lanes when it made contact with a tractor-trailer. The driver of the tractor trailer lost control and struck a Mazda vehicle before rolling over top of the concrete median barrier and catching fire. A photograph showing the Mazda and Corvette was distributed by the OPP and is shown below.
One can expect that operations by emergency personnel will cause damage such as the removal of the roofs of the involved vehicles. Yet there is evidence of collision damage visible at the upper levels of both vehicles which is not consistent with typical emergency personnel procedures. While it is possible that rollover events could cause some of this upper level damage, the “tearing” characteristics of the sheet metal is not typical of rollover events. Thus it is quite likely that the substantial upper level damage to both vehicles is from interaction with the tractor-trailer. Large chunks of concrete lying in the background of the photo confirms that the tractor-trailer caused considerable damage to the concrete barrier during its rollover.
Whether the fatal injuries to the occupants of the two vehicles could have been prevented remains to be evaluated. However what is obvious is that the low height of the median barrier was inadequate for interaction with heavy vehicles. The GoogleMaps views of the area shown below indicate that the eastbound collector lanes of Hwy 401 are often filled with vehicles of a smaller mass. When heavy trucks and buses exist they are located primarily in the right lanes, away from the concrete barrier. While this may appear to be helpful it is not.
When an impact occurs with a heavy truck in the right lanes it will most likely involve a smaller vehicle such as the Corvette. As such the initial contact is unlikely to reduce the speed of the heavy truck but may cause it to go out of control. This is precisely what the OPP have indicated. However a heavy truck that is out of control in the far right lane and travelling at highway speed will approach the median barrier at a sharper angle that if it went out of control in the lane closest to the barrier. This sharper angle means that the barrier will need to provide greater redirection of the heavy truck than if the barrier was struck at a narrower angle. But when the barrier is too low that redirection cannot occur and the truck rolls over it, as it apparently did in the present collision. If the truck had remained upright it is quite likely that it might sustain minor sideswipe damage and coast to a stop along the barrier. However, with the scraping that would typically occur during the rollover along the top of the barrier this provides the igniting friction that could set off a fire. The results were that the truck caught fire but also the barrier was badly damaged. These consequences led to greater damage to the highway and a major disruption of traffic.
Although the concrete barrier on Highway 401 at Dixie Road is of an older vintage, its lack of adequate height is not unusual. Almost all “W” guard (guide) rails throughout most major expressways in the North America are too low. Consequently any large truck or bus that strikes these systems is in grave danger of rolling over.
This is particularly catastrophic when it involves an intercity bus that may be loaded with 60 or more passengers. Given the much larger mass of such intercity buses their upper structures are extremely weak and any rollover at highway speed is likely to result in many fatalities, as has been shown in many previous incidents worldwide. In a recent brief submitted to the Canadian Parliamentary committee studying bus passenger safety, co-authored by Professor Ahmed Shalaby, of the University of Manitoba, the inadequacy of most roadside barriers was highlighted. Several examples from previous bus rollovers over top of low roadside barriers demonstrated the unnecessarily dangerous consequences that result. Recently, in the U.S., changes are being made to the suggested heights of guardrails to increase their height. Very often Canadian regulators follow the guidelines implemented in the U.S. However it will take many years before any substantial changes can begin to be made to the very large number of inadequate systems that presently exist. Thus the public needs to be aware of these dangers and appropriate measures need to be considered to reduce the chances heavy vehicle rollovers.
Police and news media provide the public with small glimpses of fatal motor-vehicle collisions while providing very little explanation whether any of these are of a suspicious nature. While the vast majority of these collisions are accidents and not criminal homicides, many deaths occur for unexplained reasons that need further inquiry.
At Gorski Consulting thousands of major collisions have been examined, Many of them in considerable detail. In many instances a full list of injuries sustained by occupants have been matched to interior contacts. Seat-belt usage, and the manner of usage has been documented. And the severity of many collisions in terms of the change-in-velocity has been determined through crush measurements that estimate the dissipated energy. In more modern times, data from event data recorders has also been reviewed. Therefore we are aware of what constitutes a “life-threatening” collision where those life-threatening injuries can be expected. However we are also aware of those instances of collisions reported by police and news media, too many to be accepted, where fatal injuries have occurred for no explained reasons. These are collisions of low to moderate severity, where structural intrusion into the occupant space does not exist, and where seat-belts and air-bags should have protected those who are reported deceased. Neither police nor the news media provide an explanation why these deaths have occurred and the public does not understand the reasoning why these matters should be questioned.
So, we now provide an example of a severe collision where life-threatening injuries could be expected. The OPP reported that a head-on collision occurred yesterday, August 10, on Hwy 59 between Gunns Hill Road and Old School Line in Oxford County, Ontario. The photo shown above is one of those that was posted on the OPP Twitter page. This is the type of severe head-on collision where, 30 years ago, we would have expected fatal injuries. Somewhat fortunately, it is reported that the occupants of this collision survived, although the extent of those injuries may be grave. With respect to the visible damage, there is less crush to the lower and stiffer portion of the unidentified passenger car while there was substantial crush at the upper level resulting in considerable structural intrusion into the driver’s space, as shown in the additional OPP photo below.
This pattern of crush is not surprising as we suspect that this car came into contact with a taller pick-up truck, as shown in the additional OPP photo shown below.
Without a view of the pick-up truck it is not possible to understand what came in contact with the crushed car. However that is not the purpose of this discussion.
It needs to be understood that governments, manufacturers and various research institutions have been conducting controlled crash tests for decades, at speeds that result in high changes-in-velocity. “Dummies” installed in these crashes are increasingly sophisticated and provide a vast amount of data about the accelerations and forces that were experienced. Those data relate to expected injuries and levels of injury severity. While the controlled tests are not replicas of real life collisions they provide an indication of what levels of injury might be expected, especially when they are combined with detailed examinations of real-life collisions. Thus those familiar with the results of such data have a fairly good idea of what injuries should be expected given a certain collision scenario.
In this current age, even when seat-belts are not worn, occupants are far more protected by other safety features than what existed 30 years ago. Thus combining the expectations of research with the existence of many safety features, collision results that “don’t smell right” are like any other matters, wrapped in colourful paper with a bow on top, where something fishy should not be purchased. It is our societal obligation to protect those innocent parties who pass away in our midst for unexplained reasons and to ensure that their deaths are no just statistical tick marks. Within reason, we need to make a critical evaluation of whatever information we receive especially in these times where nothing is for certain and anything we read or see can be just a manipulation of reality.
Despite what cautions may be given the reality is that the hot and sunny long weekend of August 3 through 5, will inevitably lead to an increase in motorcyclist fatalities. Already there have been reports of two fatalities on Friday evening, one near Grand Bend, and another in Toronto. Various investigations are carried out by police but rarely is there sufficient information provided to the public, and particularly to other motorcyclists, as to how and why the collisions occurred. This leads to situations where actions taken are based on old wives’ tales and gossip rather than objective fact.
One view maintained by many motorcyclists is that they will be protected if their machines are as loud as they can be. The idea being that other motorists will recognize that they are nearby. The reality is that, unless they are involved in high accelerations the running noise exhibited by a motorcycle travelling at constant speed is not that great. Certainly not easy to hear when the drivers of enclosed vehicles such as cars, light trucks and vans and heavy trucks have their windows rolled up and their air conditioning running, or more so when some form of entertainment device, like a radio, is playing inside the vehicle.
A large number of collisions involve situations where motorcyclist excessive speed and acceleration, along with difficulty of detection, combined with the complexities of initiating and maintaining maximum braking, make motorcycle collisions more likely. Added to this is the fact that almost any incident, even a minor impact, can result in grave injuries to the motorcyclist because there is essentially no protection available. Some motorcycles are being equipped with airbags but that only helps in certain, single impact collisions. However, once a motorcycle is destabilized, falling off at highway speed can be of little difference that being ejected from a four-wheeled vehicle by not wearing a seat-belt.
In the end, the lack of information and understanding, due to a lack of quality objective fact, leads many motorcyclists, and other drivers, to ignore the usual scare tactics employed in the public mainstream and continue riding and driving without the essential skills needed.