The OPP indicate that collisions in its Western Region involving commercial vehicles resulted in 35 fatalities in 2019 whereas in 2018 there were only 18 fatalities. But what does those numbers actually mean?

In late January, 2020, the OPP conducted a “Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement” blitz near London, Ontario. Although the exact number of police personnel involved in the blitz is unknown it was reported that officers from Chatham-Kent, Elgin, Middlesex, Oxford, Wellington, members from the OPP’s Aviation Service, London Highway Safety Division, Field Support Bureau, and Communications and Technology Services Bureau were involved. That does not sound like a small number of personnel.

During two days of enforcement it was reported that 51 charges were laid against truck drivers, 23 against drivers of passenger cars and one bus driver was charged with following too close. In a further breakdown of the charges, 30 truck drivers were charged with following too close, seven were charged with distracted driving and no charges were laid for speeding. With respect to passenger car drivers, no drivers were charged with following too close, seven were charged with distracted driving, and 14 were charged with speeding.

From videotaped observations on Hwy 401 conducted by Gorski Consulting, about 800 vehicles would pass a police inspection point every hour and almost half of these vehicles would be Class 8 tractor-trailers. This data also indicates that every 15 minutes there would be about 15 heavy trucks and 15 passenger car and light trucks that would be observed travelling at a gap of less than 2 seconds from the vehicle ahead. Such a gap could meet the definition of following too close. Yet, as shown in the above OPP statistics, only 30 truck drivers were charged with that offence and no passenger car drivers were charged over an enforcement time of two days. If the enforcement blitz was conducted for 8 hours each day, or a total of 16 hours, the police should have observed 120 cars and trucks following too close every hour, or a total of 960 vehicles should have been observed during the 16 hour blitz. Yet only 23 truck drivers were charged and no drivers of passenger cars were charged. If the public was made aware of these facts what would they say?

Yet in the videotaped documentation conducted by Gorski Consulting, if the cameras had been pointed at the vehicle license plates, and if a high resolution was used on the cameras (Gorski Consulting purposely uses a low resolution), then all 960 violators would be documented and could be charged. This would happen at no cost to the taxpayer. But how many police personnel were actually required to catch those 23 violators and at what cost? We don’t know because that was never revealed.

This discussion is not meant to criticize the police for their attempts to keep traffic under control. Clearly enforcement is needed. But it demonstrates that police enforcement programs such as the one publicized by the OPP are not likely to capture a very large number of violators. Twenty-three out of a potential total of 960 violators results in a capture rate of just 2.4 %. It is possible that police focused their attention on the worst drivers. Yet that does not seem likely as only truck drivers were charged and no drivers of passenger cars and light trucks were caught. Yet the Gorski Consulting data indicates that drivers of cars and light trucks are as guilty of following too close as are truck drivers. So it is possible that many of the worst, habitual violators are unlikely to be caught but many normal drivers who made a mistake will be caught. Given the difficulties that this discussion reveals, an honest and open discussion is needed in a public forum so a better solution can be found.

UPDATE: January 26, 2020: 1030 Hours

The above calculations should have indicated that police should have documented 1920 vehicles following too close if their enforcement was over a 16 hour period in two days, rather than the 960 vehicles which was reported erroneously for a single day only. The 960 would be for a single day of 8 hours. As we do not know how long the actual enforcement was per day a detailed discussion is not warranted. Four hours of enforcement per day could also be considered.

The bottom line is that very few drivers who were following too close were actually ticketed. We need to understand what difficulties exist toward much higher rates of enforcement. This cannot be done in the closed atmosphere where that discussion does not occur.