The truck driver in the Humboldt Broncos crash in Saskatchewan that killed 16 members of the hockey team has been charged with “dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death”. The driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, had been travelling westbound and failed to stop at a stop sign at an intersection when a collision occurred with the northbound bus carrying the hockey team. Despite comments from many that the charges were warranted there has been no information released from the police investigation.
Evidence that could increase the charge to dangerous driving should not be solely based on the fact that Sidhu mistakenly passed through a stop sign. Any driver can experience a momentary lapse in concentration or attention that could lead to such a result, often with little consequence. Therefore the charges most likely have to be based on additional evidence that has not yet been made public. A heavy truck of modern manufacture would undoubtedly be equipped with some form of event data recorder that would store information such as the truck’s speed for several seconds before impact. Some truck EDRs might store data for much longer times.
There is the possibility that high speed might have been one of the factors leading to the up-graded charges. However, judging by the short, post-impact travel distance from impact to rest it would be highly unlikely that the speed of the truck at impact was anywhere close to the 100 km/h speed limit for the highway. In fact, from a preliminary observation, the impact speed of the truck would be substantially lower that the posted speed. Thus there could have been some pre-impact braking, or other unknown factors may have existed that have still not been released from the police investigation. A common possibility is that the driver could have been distracted by use of some form of electronic technology such as a smart phone and this could be detected by the police. There are many possibilities that remain unknown.
What is known is that a stand of trees was located at the south-east quadrant of the intersection which, from a preliminary viewpoint, may have contributed to the lack of visibility, by both drivers, of each others’ presence. It is for this reason that there are standards set in place for roadway maintenance personnel to cut back any vegetation or other obstructions to visibility at roadway intersections. This fact has not been discussed in any detail in most new coverage. Police have not been asked, nor have they voluntarily commented on the relevance of that factor.
While much news coverage has focused on more truck driver training it has not been explained how additional training could prevent a driver from making simply errors that all drivers make, regardless of their training. Driver training has not been demonstrated as effective in preventing such momentary errors as failing to detect the presence of a stop sign. Indeed, driver training is often a test of one’s “performance” on a particular time of the testing but does not reflect the driver’s attitude or diligence in maintaining safe driving habits once the driver testing has been completed. Changing long-lasting attitudes and habits is much more difficult and requires the participant’s willing involvement in making that change. Official driver testing does not guarantee that the tested driver will be committed to what has been learned.