The best that can be said about police actions is that they posted photos of a harpooned vehicle so that the public could consider the consequences. Only a couple of news agencies picked up on the story, as if it was of minimal importance.
Nipissing West OPP reported on their Twitter account that on Saturday morning, September 5, 2020, a southbound vehicle struck a guard rail “which went through the veh”. The collision occurred on Highway 69 near Sudbury, Ontario, but no specific location was noted. It was reported that the 52-year-old female driver sustained a severed foot. To add insult to injury the OPP charged the driver with Careless Driving. At no point did police make the public aware of the inappropriate functioning of the barrier system or that the existence of such a system could pose a life-threatening situation to other future drivers.
The following three photos represent the remaining ones posted by the OPP to their twitter account.
What is revealing in these photos is that the OPP must be incapable of understanding the importance of what needs to be revealed to the public. This is so because of the fact that in neither of the photos did they show the end of the guardrail that would have been the “point of the spear” that commenced the harpooning of the vehicle. Otherwise it would have to be believed that this was done on purpose, which would be difficult to conceive.
It is difficult to accept that the OPP would not be aware of the controversy surrounding harpooning of vehicles that has been in the news media for at least the last 7 or 8 years. It was initially alleged that such harpooning was being caused by a specific guardrail terminal, the ET-Plus terminal, manufactured by Trinity Highway Products of Dallas Texas.
As an example of the many news articles written on the subject, Global News wrote an article in October, 2015 entitled “Controversial guardrail system installed on roads across Canada”. In that article Global News reported that approximately “5,000 steel beam energy attenuating guide rail terminals have been installed on provincial highways throughout Ontario, with the majority of the systems being manufactured by Trinity Highway Products”. At that time there were allegations that the ET-Plus had an undisclosed design change that could “cause it to act like a spear on impact slicing through cars and amputating legs”. After these allegations “approximately 40 states suspended installations of the device” and “The US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also decided to gather information on how the ET-Plus was performing on the roads and conduct a series of crash tests”. Controversy surrounded these activities that to this day has not been fully cleared. Yet it can be observed that many jurisdictions, including Ontario, have been quietly installing different terminals from other manufacturers without explaining why this decision was made. What remains is that there are still numerous installations of ET-Plus terminals existing throughout Ontario’s highway system.
So it remains a mystery why the OPP photos of the vehicle and site did not include a photo which could allow a determination whether the harpooned vehicle in the above photos had interacted with an ET-Plus terminal. Similarly the few official news media that took up the story also did not inform the public of the possible historical controversy that has existed over recent years.
The point is that, regardless of what system was installed at the site, the public should not accept that a vehicle should be harpooned in this fashion. This is a potentially deadly outcome that was avoided in this unique instance by pure luck. Neither investigating police nor official news media made the public aware of this fact. This is a very disappointing inaction by those who are entrusted in protecting and informing the public of deadly dangers on our highways.