Not unexpectedly little of educational value was provided by police and official news media about the fatal collision that occurred on Monday morning, August 14, 2023 at 0800 hours at the intersection of Highbury Ave and Dingman Drive in south London, Ontario. The best coverage was given by CTV News in London which quoted a resident who complained about the high volume of traffic using Dingman Drive ever since the new Costco location was opened up a few kilometres west of the intersection.
What needs to be emphasized is that Highbury Ave has seen an increase in traffic volume and this causes problems for drivers on crossroads who need to enter HIghbury or cross it.
On March 17, 2022 Gorski Consulting reviewed the safety issues on Highbury Ave in a Gorski Consulting website article entitled : “NO PRETTY WAY TO DISCUSS SOMEONE BEING BURNED ALIVE – SO OUR RESPONSE IS TO HIDE IT”. In that article we discussed some of the serious and fatal collisions that have been happening in recent years on Highbury Ave. While all these are tragic, one was particularly so in that it led to a local woman being burned alive after a serious head-on collision in October of 2020.
Since the article was published several other collisions have been reported by news media along Highbury Ave but very little useful information has been provided. On November 18, 2022 the OPP reported on their Twitter page that a single vehicle collision occurred along Highbury Ave but the precise location was not given except that it occurred somewhere in Central Elgin County. The driver sustained serious injuries but no further information was provided.
In February of 2023 two collisions were reported. On February 4, a three-vehicle collision occurred on Highbury Ave within the curve between Carr Road and Weber Bourne. Extensive damage was reported but there were no serious injuries. The roadway surface was reported to be “extremely slick” but there was no official indication what relevance the surface conditions had to the collision cause.
On February 24, 2023 the OPP reported on their Twitter page that a two-vehicle collision occurred on Highbury Ave between Ferguson Line and Truman Line. An on-site photo taken by CTV News showed that a garbage truck had collided with a passenger vehicle and that both vehicles had come to a stop close to an intersection. Four persons were reportedly taken to hospital but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening. The photo would suggest that this was an angle collision related to the intersection but no official confirmation of that was provided by police.
On May 23, 2023 reports were available of a collision between a transport truck and a van at the intersection of Highbury Ave and Wilton Grove Road. No information was provided about the basics of the collision except that one person was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. It would have been helpful if officials had reported if this was an intersection-related collision but even that basic fact was no disclosed.
On June 6, 2023 it was reported that a collision occurred between a transport truck and a car on Highbury Ave near Ron McNeil Line. It was reported that a southbound car crossed the roadway centre-line and collided with the rear wheel of a northbound transport truck. The car subsequently rolled over. The car driver was taken to hospital with unknown injuries. No information was provided as to why the car crossed the roadway centreline.
While the above five collisions have been documented by Gorski Consulting and we try to maintain a reasonable vigilance of collisions occurring in the region it is not possible for us to become aware of every reported collision and it is impossible for us to know about the many non-reported collisions that occur. Thus it is up to the authorities whose responsibility it is to keep the public safe to maintain a detailed account of collisions occurring in the region and to conduct a reasonable analysis that will flag those areas where safety may be in jeopardy. Given the high traffic volume along Highbury Ave between London and St Thomas there should be some attention given to problem areas that would appear to be obvious. Even from minimal observation it is possible to note that drivers on crossroads such as Dingman Drive, Westminster Drive, Manning Drive and Glanworth Drive experience significant difficulties in crossing or entering Highbury Ave, particularly at morning and evening rush hours.
The details of the present collision at Dingman Drive will likely never be divulged and nothing is likely to be learned from any information collected by official entities. However some further details can be gained. Gorski Consulting visited the collision site later in the day on August 14, 2023 once police re-opened the site to the public.
The photo below was taken at approximately 1720 hours or a little more than nine hours after the collision which reportedly occurred at 0800 hours. The collision time would be at the morning rush hour and the photo below shows the conditions during the evening rush hour. The photo shows a view looking southbound on Highbury Ave and the crossroad of Dingman Drive can be seen beyond the concrete barriers. An eastbound van/SUV is stopped on Dingman Drive and this allows us to see what portions of the stopped vehicle would be available to the driver of a southbound passenger car.
The Dump truck involved in this collision was southbound so its driver would have seen a similar view to what is shown in the above photo. However an important difference is that, while the eye height of a passenger car driver might be in the range of 1.2 to 1.3 metres above the pavement, the Dump truck driver’s eyes might be in the range of 2.4 to 2.6 metres high. Thus the Dump truck driver should have been able to see a larger portion of the stopped eastbound vehicle than what is depicted in the above photo.
The line of southbound vehicles shown in the above photo is typical of the conditions that were observed, although there were also temporary conditions where lines of traffic were clear. Some of gaps in traffic can be seen in the northbound vehicles approaching Dingman. The variability of traffic congestion means that drivers intending to cross or enter Highbury do not understand that, if they wait long enough, the lines of traffic will disburse somewhat and a better opportunity to make a motion will become available.
Congestions and gaps in Highbury traffic occur for many reasons but one common reason is that slower traffic, including large trucks, imped the intensions of many drivers who want to go faster. This often creates a long line of traffic behind the slower vehicle. Sometimes dangerous passing motions occur when impatient drivers attempt to pass the slower vehicle, often in areas where passing is dangerous. Thus we have areas along Highbury where traffic volume is variable and this causes problems for drivers on crossroads who believe that the line of traffic they see is likely to be endless and they must take chances if they are to cross or enter Highbury. This leads to situations like the one shown below, which was also taken shortly after 1700 hours on August 14th.
Given the lack of basic information about the present collision it is not possible to know why the driver of the eastbound pick-up truck came to be positioned in the middle of Highbury Ave when his vehicle was struck on the left side by the southbound Dump truck. All we know is that a long length of skid marks were caused by the Dump truck commencing at the point where the impact occurred, as shown in the photo below.
When event data from a event data recorder (EDR) is not available to tell us about the speed of the Dump truck, we must use the length of the skid marks to make that calculation. However, although the skid marks begin at the point of impact, this does not necessarily mean the the front end of the Dump truck was at the beginning of the skid marks when they were made. It is often that the rear wheels of such a truck produce the first skid marks and therefore we sometimes need to subtract the truck’s length from the skid mark distance in order to conduct the speed calculation.
Furthermore we also need to look at the characteristics of the skid marks to be certain that they are indicative of a vehicle sliding with full wheel lock-up through to the final rest position of the vehicle. The photo below shows the skid marks as they lead toward the west ditch of Highbury where the two vehicles came to rest.
We can also look at the evidence on the west roadside to confirm if maximum braking likely continued to final rest, as shown in the photo below.
Measurements at the site indicated that the front of the Dump truck came to rest approximately 78 metres south of the beginning of the skid marks. If we concluded that this represented the distance that the Dump truck moved while sliding to rest then we could apply a typical “speed from skid” calculation to estimate the truck’s speed at impact. Using the skid distance and an estimated level of deceleration of 0.6g would result in an impact speed of the Dump truck of about 109 km/h. The maximum posted speed for Highbury Ave is 80 km/h. So we might question if there is sufficient grounds to conclude that the Dump truck was speeding.
If we conclude that the start of the skid marks was produced by the rear wheels of the Dump truck we would typically subtract the truck’s length (about 12 metres) from the skid distance and, recalculating, come up with an impact speed of about 100.5 km/h. We might then consider other factors such as the speed loss from impact and whether certain complications existed in these simplified calculations. But overall police ought to be examining evidence such as this to provide a proper explanation about how and why this collision occurred. And these facts should be properly reported to the public who also have a stake in these consequences because any member of the public could be the next victim.