Police and news media have not discussed the details of how a female driver was fatally injured when her SUV struck an unprotected pillar of an overpass on Highway 402 at Glendon Drive. The following discussion will provide some of those details.
It was reported that at eastbound SUV was travelling on Highway 402 at approximately 0200 hours this morning when it entered the median and struck an “overpass”. That description does not properly identify that an unprotected concrete pillar existed in the median and, because there was no safety barrier in front of it, the SUV struck the pillar and the driver was killed.
The photo below is a view looking along the eastbound lanes of Highway 402 approaching the Glendon Drive overpass. Note how there is a right curve that could cause vehicles to enter the centre median. This would necessitate the installation of a barrier to prevent an impact with the pillars of the overpass that are located in the middle of the median.
The view below is closer to the point of impact. The SUV struck the middle of the three pillars in the background. In the foreground a tire mark can be seen on the gravel shoulder and this was caused by the tires of the SUV.
Turning around, the view below is looking back such that the SUV would be coming toward the camera. The SUV would have travelled a substantial distance through the right curve before exiting the pavement and entering the median.
As the SUV entered the median there as a rise in the earth just before the overpass. The underside of the made contact with the rise, producing a large gouge, and this caused the vehicle to be vaulted in the air as it approached the pillars of the overpass. In the photo below the gouge in the earth can be seen just before the pillars. Judging by the width of the gouge the SUV was likely leading with its front end rather than sliding sideways.
As shown in the photo below, there are no visible tire marks on the earth on the approach toward the struck pillar. This indicates that, after gouging the earth the SUV continued to be airborne up to where it struck the middle pillar.
Markings on the side of the middle pillar were indicative of a sideswiping motion. This indicates that the SUV likely did not strike the pillar centrally. Although no photos were made available by either the police or the news media it is likely that the contact of the pillar was made with the left side of the vehicle and the contact likely extended over a large portion of that left side. The photo below shows that the bottom portion of the markings are black and form a crescent. This could relate to contact by the left front wheel of the SUV.
Support for the conclusion that the SUV was vaulted in the air before impacting the pillar can be seen in the photo below. An investigator, 5 feet 10 inches tall, is standing next to the struck pillar and the black markings from the striking tire of the SUV can be seen at about the investigator’s shoulder level.
The median at this location is about 22 metres wide. The location where the visible tire mark exited the paved surface was 40 metres from the struck pillar. This would mean that the SUV travelled at an approimate 15 degree angle. When drivers who fall asleep or suffer some kind of medical episode their vehicle drifts off a road at a shallow angle of about 2 to 4 degrees. The departure angle is also affected by the presence of a curve so that, one can imagine, as a curve becomes greater so does the departure angle. Thus the 15 degree departure is not unusual for the present circumstances.
After impact with the concrete pillar the SUV continued to be airborne and made first ground contact about 24 metres past the impacted pillar. This first ground contact can be seen in the photo below.
The typical evidence of a vehicle’s final rest position was found about 70 metres past the pillar impact. The photo below shows the evidence created by the towing operators as they pulled the SUV out of the median where it had come to rest.
In review, one must question why this collision had to result in a fatality. Clearly if a guardrail had been placed somewhere in the 40 metre distance prior to the overpass it would likely have deflected the SUV away from the concrete pillar. Fitch barrels or other devices located near the pillars might also have helped but the Ministry of Transportation had to understand that the embankment located just before the pillars would likely vault any approaching vehicles over such devices and a correction in the profile of the earth would have been required. Either way, this location is not some local street with a low traffic volume and the Ministry should have recognized that, some form of protection was needed in front of the pillars so that this tragedy could be avoided.
Yet, we can review the manner in which this fatal collision has seen minimal publicity by the news media and the public has been left uninformed. When inadequate road safety conditions like these exist it is essential that the public be made aware of the situation. Up to now there has been no public discussion of this inadequate safety issue and we cannot know whether the police did not notify the news media, the news median did not bother to inquire, or whether both are implicated in this lack of proper reporting to the public. It raises concerns that, when police and road maintenance personnel are both paid by the Ontario government which would be a defendant in any civil action, that these two entities are the only ones who are aware of the safety problem and they have the opportunity to hide it. When Highways such as the 401 or 402 are shut down for a police investigation no one independent to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation is able to examine the collision evidence before it is altered. When important evidence, such as the lack of as barrier, is kept from the public’s knowledge it must raise the question whether this has been done on purpose.