The fact that drivers have difficulty with slowing or stopped traffic was not mentioned in the latest reporting of a fatal, rear-end impact that occurred on Highway 401 near Guelph Line yesterday. While the OPP were helpful in their posting of three photos of the results of the crash, nothing further was revealed or learned from the tragedy. Here are the photos provided by the OPP.

View of rear-ended Honda in which the right front passenger sustained fatal injuries.

View of front end of Honda showing the front end damage indicating that a secondary impact had occurred.

View of Pick-up truck hauling a large trailer that rear-ended the Honda.

What is even more revealing is that certain results exist that should have been discussed in a public venue.

Firstly, although the Honda sustained a substantial impact to its rear-end that should not have been of sufficient severity to cause fatal injuries to a right front occupant. Again, it has not been revealed that the deceased was actually in the right front seat but that is a very high probability whenever there are only two persons seated in a passenger car. So what caused the fatal injuries? That was one of the observant questions put out by a commenter on social media. What often happens in this scenario is that the initial rear-end impact causes the passenger to become out-of-position (OOP) during the subsequent frontal impact.  Specifically, the passenger is thrown forward after the initial, rearward motion from the rear-end impact. When the passenger is thrown forward her upper body comes to be positioned too close to the airbag when it deploys and we have an air-bag induced fatality. So is this what happened? If it did then it needs to be identified. Police cannot hold back such important information that is critical to the public’s safety. While we understand the enormous safety benefits of airbags we also need to identify when they cause injury as this is the only way that we can draw attention to the fact that solutions need to be found.

Secondly, we see the obvious fact that the pick-up truck was hauling a large trailer where its stopping ability may be suspect. Only police who have access to the critical information about braking ability can know for sure. But we need comment on this issue from police for the same reasons as we need them for the Honda airbag concerns.

While an OPP video provided comments about how the road surface was dry and it was sunny, etc., it remains questionable why the windshield wipers on the Honda were stuck up on the windshield as if they were being used. Granted, because of the two impacts, something may have triggered the activation of the wipers but it needs further evaluation.

In the video the OPP also commented about not knowing why traffic had slowed or come to a stop. Anyone who has spent any time on Highway 401 approaching eastbound to Highway 25 would know that this is were traffic changes from highway speeds to a major slow-down or complete stop. It happens almost every day. To say one was confused over that occurrence appears unrealistic. Traffic slow-downs or stopping on high-speed expressways such as  Highway 401 are a major problem that is not being addressed. Police and the Ministry of Transportation are blaming drivers for being inattentive. This is like blaming the worker for his own death when a machine does not contain a guard which prevents the workers hands from being placed in a wood-shaving operation and thus being pulled into the cutting mechanism. Yes, it is the workers fault, but the conditions in which the worker operates makes it highly likely that, eventually, he will make such a deadly mistake. The solution has to be in exploring an adjustment (i.e.e adding a guard to a cutting machine) that takes into account the probability that a human will make a mistake due to the extremely large number of times that a repetitive action takes place. So returning to the collision scenario, a vast number of drivers avoid collisions with stopped or slowed traffic but because of the vast number of occurrences that take place every day, there will always be a driver who will make an isolated mistake. In the area of Milton the Average Annual Traffic Volume (AATV) is well over 100,000 vehicles per day. It might only require 1 out of 100,000 of these drivers to make a mistake in order to result in a fatality, every day. The problem is complicated by the fact that these 100,000 drivers, fitted into a confined area of the highway, will tailgate even when their line of sight is greatly reduced by factors such as large trucks and unexpected lane closures due to previous collisions.

Blame is easy as it requires no action to improve safety conditions. Admitting to safety problems, in this age of the public’s reckless need for vengeance, where a solution is difficult to find, remains political and/or career suicide.