A slightly faster speed could have led to multiple fatalities in a 1971 bus crash but no one noticed. Even now a photo of the incident was only a novelty for the public’s amusement.

The Hamilton Spectator Newspaper reached into it archive photo footage today to reveal one of several photos from past historic snow storms. Such nostalgic reminiscing brings back favourable memories to many.  One of the photos showed a Go bus that reportedly slid into ditch.

The caption accompanying the photo read as follows:

“Passengers leave s Toronto-bound bus after it skidded off Lakeshore Road in Burlington and landed in the ditch. Dec. 30 1971.”

The photo showed a number of mature trees in the background very close to where the bus had come to a halt.

What can we learn about passenger safety from comparing this photo to the Ottawa bus crash of January 11, 2019? The Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) criticized the lack of crashworthiness of buses as a result of observing the results of two recent multi-fatal bus crashes near Ottawa. One only needs to look at the photo of the bus in Ottawa crash to see how much penetration took place into the occupant compartment due to the presence of the overhanging roof of the street-side shelter that was struck. Not only was it a case of lack of crashworthiness but surely the overhang and the double-decker bus were not compatible with each other. They both should not been where they were. So it was a matter of incompatible infrastructure. Drivers make mistakes that could result in minor consequences with good and compatible infrastructure. Those mistakes can turn into multi-fatal disasters when there is bad and incompatible infrastructure.

In the case of the historic Go bus photo from 1971, it can be seen how close the incident was to a massive catastrophe. The bus was stopped at an angle which was close to its limit before commencing to rollover. This presented the soft roof structure to potential impact with the mature trees in the background. Those trees would have been the immovable, narrow barrier that would have cleaned off the roof of the bus and killed many of its passengers. It was only a question of a slightly higher speed. Yet we look at photos such as these with a quiet amusement while we go back to the sports page or catch the latest gossip of Hollywood.

There are many incidents in the current day where potentially dangerous situations are unrecognized on our roadways. Incidents that result in minor injuries or no injuries what-so-ever. Yet, behind them, a trained and experienced eye can see the potential. Those who are in the position of knowing these dangers have to make that known to those who cannot detect them. Public understanding about many unsafe incidents has to change. Our reporting of these incidents has to change. We cannot repeatedly stumble into our optometrist’s office with our eyes closed and complain that we cannot see.