Non-Alcohol Drug Impairment Not Detected In Motor Vehicle Collisions

What has been revealed about the ability to detect non-alcohol drug impairment now that legalization of cannabis has taken place in Canada? For decades there has been a focused attention placed on alcohol impairment and various statistics have shown its relevance to major-injury and fatal collisions. Yet essentially nothing was mentioned about non-alcohol, drug impairment. It is only now that a discussion is developing because of concerns expressed that police may have limited ability to detect driver impairment due to cannabis use.

How many drivers were driving “stoned” for decades without detection?

In a recently publicized letter from Ontario Premier Doug Ford to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the reality was noted that only a single piece of drug detection equipment, the Drager DrugTest 5000, has recently been made available to police. But how recently? How many of these machines were available to police 2 years ago, or 5 years ago, or 10 years ago? The truth emerges that likely very little, if any, objective testing was available even a short while before cannabis legalization. So what was the public being told during these many years and why was this problem not made more widely known?

Even though cannabis can be detected a further discussion is revealing that it is difficult to determine what levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, constitute impairment. However this cannot be a new finding. Surely this was known since the decades of use in the well-known activities of youth in the 1960s and onward.

If nothing more, this discussion reveals how important factors in the causation of motor vehicle collisions are officially withheld from public knowledge. There are many unpleasant realities, like non-alcohol drug impairment, that do not have an immediate solution. The hiding of these problems become of way of not having to face them in the public domain. Yet their hiding is also the mechanism that prevents their resolution.

Mandatory Truck Driver Training – An Expensive Bandage For A Cancer?

There is a developing belief that privately-administered, mandatory, truck driver training will create reductions in the frequency and consequences of truck collisions. These reductions must out weigh the generated costs that are monetary but will also include a reduction in the numbers of available truck drivers and a reduction in the numbers of smaller, independent trucking firms. This belief cannot be based on a naive belief that the data collected on truck collisions can be relied upon to accurately identify the true cause of truck crashes. These are some of the issues that need consideration.

Humboldt Broncos Conclusions Drawn Though Evidence Not Revealed

Failure to release evidence surrounding Humboldt Broncos crash leads to unacceptable speculation and conclusions.

Failure to release evidence regarding any major incident causes many unwarranted conclusions to be drawn. That observation has been demonstrated many times in history.

Thus it is so with the tragic multiple fatalities that occurred April 7, 2018 when the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus collided with a commercial truck at the intersection of Saskatchewan Highways 335 and 35. Even though essential facts about how and why the collision occurred have not been made available many have already drawn conclusions as to how “the problem” should be fixed. To many “the problem” is already known and obvious. That is the true problem.

Officials who have control over transportation issues have used the Humboldt Broncos tragedy as the reason for making changes to how trucking firms will operate. Whether or not such changes may be warranted and correct must be independent of the issues of the Humboldt Broncos crash until essential facts are revealed. Even then, there is no guarantee that the procedures and analysis that were employed by investigators will correctly identify the true causes.

Most recently the operator of the trucking firm that collided with the bus has been reportedly charged with a number of non-compliance matters relating to the operation of his firm. While  these are important matters they may be totally irrelevant to determining the cause of the crash. Yet the perception in the public’s eye is that it is somehow connected to the cause of the crash.

The public must understand that the ability to critically evaluate information that is provided through main stream news media, and more recently social media, is essential to the proper functioning of our society. Hysteria, bias and emotional reactions are not good factors to employ when it is essential that the  root cause of an incident is properly revealed. Yet these are the factors that reveal themselves when essential facts about an incident are not made available. There are costs and benefits that need to be understood whenever decisions are made about the timing of the release of such critical evidence.

Policing Unsecured Loads Is A Public Safety Benefit

Unsecured loads are a danger to the occupants of a vehicle and this is an issue that is often misunderstood.

Constable Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) posted several photos on the OPP West twitter account showing a van loaded with various supplies and equipment, including a law tractor. These photos are re-produced below.

The danger of insecure loads does not lie just with the possibility that they may spill onto the roadway. But there are grave dangers that exist for the vehicle occupants if such a loaded vehicle is involved in a significant impact.

In the last of the three photos shown above the pile of lumber clearly blocks the driver’s view of anything to the right of the vehicle. In such an instance a collision is more likely to occur. The type of collision that might occur is not guaranteed and could involve a significant impact to the side, front or even to the rear of the vehicle. The results of such impacts can be complicated but previous investigations show how they can be deadly.

As an example, say that you have a 100 kg load in the back of your van. In a significant impact your vehicle may be slowed down by 40 km/h. Converted, this is equivalent to a change-in-velocity of about 11.11 metres per second. But such major collisions are often completed in about 1/10th of a second. So, in fact, the change-in-velocity is actually 10 times higher or equivalent to 400 km/h, or 111 metres per second.  A “g” is the acceleration attained due the earth’s gravitational pull which is equal to 9.81 metres per second squared. As an example, if you jump off a cliff your body will be accelerated toward the ground at a rate of 9.81 metres every second. Thus in terms of ‘gs’ the rate at which you slow down in a 40 km/h impact is about 111 divided by 9.81 or about 11.3 gs.

Another way to look at it is to have a 200 pound man sit on your chest and you can appreciate the difficulty you might experience. Now multiply that weight by 11, or 2200 pounds, and this is the type of force we are dealing with. Is this healthy? Could you survive a 2200 pound weight being applied to your chest? That is the weight of a small car. Clearly not.

Returning to the example of our improperly loaded van, there is a lawn tractor positioned in the rear and there is no indication that it is tied down in any way to the structure of the vehicle. How much does a lawn tractor like this weight? Using the example above, it could surely weight 200 pounds. Now, what could happen if our van driver is involved in the 40 km/h change-in-velocity we discussed above? This lawn tractor is now an unsecured “cannon ball” that continues to travel forward within the vehicle interior even though the vehicle itself is being stopped by the force of the impact.

So let us say the van driver is wearing his seat-belt and the air bag deploys thus providing excellent protection. But what about that unsecured “cannon ball” that has not been slowed down by a seat belt or air bag. This 2200 pound object now drivers into the rear of the driver’s seat back after the driver and van have lost most of their forward motion.

Stop and think for a moment. Do you really think that automotive engineers are so cleaver that they can devise  the creation of a seat back that can stop a 2200 pound object in a fractional distance that could be needed to protect the driver? Wonderful things have been accomplished but this miracle is still awaiting discovery. Essentially nothing will stop this extreme weight from striking the driver. What can be beneficial is if the object can be re-directed so that it travels to another part of the interior that does not contain a passenger.

So my recommendations are as follows. Number one, never allow such a situation to occur as shown in the photos above. The cost of using a small trailer or other vehicle which can transport your equipment and heavy supplies is worth the additional cost in comparison to losing your life.

Secondly, if you absolutely need to carry some relatively heavy cargo in your vehicle’s interior there are procedures that can be used to minimize your danger. For a frontal impact recognize that most severe frontal impacts will involve the left portion of the front end and this will induce counter-clockwise rotation. Thus, if you are not carrying passengers on the right side of vehicle, place the heavy object on the right side of your vehicle. When the typical, severe, frontal impact occurs the heavy cargo is more likely to travel into the right portion of the interior and you could be saved.

Next, place your have cargo as low as possible, like on the floor for example. Consider also whether you have created the undesirable conditions that could cause the cargo to be ramped upward during a severe impact and make proper adjustments where possible.

Thirdly, place your cargo in contact with a solid portion of the vehicle interior. By doing so you may be able cause the cargo to begin slowing down as early as possible, or close to the timing of the slowing of the vehicle structure.

And fourthly, and most importantly, secure the cargo to the structure of your vehicle so that it has an opportunity to ride down the collision along with the vehicle structure. If you like, view this as a “seat-belt” for your cargo.

None of the above procedures can prevent you from sustaining major or fatal injuries when carrying heavy cargo but they can minimize the chances. Otherwise, understand the dangers and use the proper vehicle for such transportation.

City of Hamilton Still Does Not Recognize Barrier Problems Along Red Hill Valley Parkway

This barrier impact should have raised eye brows but no one in Hamilton seems to recognize its relevance.

It is as if the City of Hamilton has been living in a cave. Throughout North America various news agencies have reported on the questionable performance of guardrail terminals. Gorski Consulting has posted examples of several incidents along Hamilton’s Red Hill Valley Parkway where guardrail terminals do not appear to be performing as they should. Local news media have reported  that there is a higher number of fatal collisions along the Red Hill Valley Parkway. Yet when a questionable incident occurs, like the one shown in the above photo, there is silence.

The above photo was taken by John Rennison of the Hamilton Spectator Newspaper. Text accompanying the photo indicated that the incident occurred on Hamilton’s Red Hill Valley Parkway near Barton Street, but there was no information about injuries. Yet clearly someone has missed the boat. Regardless of whether injuries occurred one only needs to look at the deformation of the guardrail and the damage to the car and, with very little research, learn that there could be a problem here.

As best can be determined from a single photo it appears that the vehicle slid sideways into the end of the guardrail .There is an ET-Plus terminal at the end of the guardrail. Although the image shows few details it appears that initial contact of the terminal was made at the driver’s door and then the system buckled. A small amount of the rail was squeezed through the terminal thus indicating that some degree of longitudinal force was applied to the terminal. The system is designed so that the pre-impact kinetic energy possessed by the vehicle is dissipated by squeezing and deforming the rail as it passes through the throat of the terminal. But clearly very little of that action occurred. Yet we see that the rail has buckled and its “spear” is ready to penetrate the vehicle’s interior via the driver’s door. This appears to be the classic malfunction that was reported by Mr. Jesse Harmon in his law suite against the terminal manufacturer Trinity Highway Products of Dallas Texas. But no one seems to recognize it. What if the vehicle had been travelling slightly faster and the spear harpooned the driver? Is that what would need to take place for someone to wake up and recognize the potential problem?

Incidents like this should be documented thoroughly and the reason for the apparent malfunction should be explained. They certainly should not be left as a passing thought on the back pages of any journalist’s report.

Kavanaugh and Ford Reveal Difficulty in Determining Truth

What is witness reliability?

Yesterday’s hearing in the U.S. regarding Brett Kavanough’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is an opportunity to high-light the difficulty that exists when attempting to draw conclusions about the truth of an incident based solely on the word of one person versus another. While the information provided by the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, relating an unwanted, inappropriate, sexual encounter of 36 years ago with Kavanough has caught worldwide attention, the general scenario is played out thousands of times over in many courtrooms yearly across North America.

One need not look very hard or long to quickly see the judgments that have already been made, whether on social media, on major television broadcasts or among informal gatherings at the coffee machine. In all these discussions it is rare that persons stop to consider how much they can depend on the accuracy/truth of what they have heard.

While correct judgment requires it, regardless of the individual, personal bias is a difficult factor to remove. For the most part, those who have made their judgments have a strong-felt belief that they are capable of distinguishing truth and lies from signals such as whether someone is nervous, angry, emotional or by the success with which they are able to explain their position. It is an unfortunate reality that we fail to understand how important it is to support our judgments with reliable, objective evidence.

If nothing else, this hearing should demonstrate to all how important it is that a proper, impartial investigation be carried out as early as possible by experienced investigators who are given the proper time and resources to complete their work. Without the documentation of objective evidence and analysis based on standardized, accepted, scientific methods, there is a high likelihood that the justice that must be attained, will not be reached.

Fires After Impacts Should Not Be Inevitable

When this car erupted in flames after striking a pole on the QEW questions should have been raised why so many fires are occurring.

We do marvelous things to protect occupants from the forces of an impact, then we allow them to be burned to death in the aftermath. Than outcome should not be inevitable. Yet, fires appear to be occurring with greater regularity and little is done or said why this is happening.

Just yesterday a tanker truck became engulfed in flames on Highway 401 near Leslie Street in Toronto after it was involved in a reported collision. Bystanders took photos and video while fire fighters arrived to contain the fire to the cab area. The driver of the truck reportedly escaped without injury.

But obviously the situation could have been much worse. What if the fire was not contained? What if there was a rupture or explosion of the tanker contents? As to how and why the fire erupted there was no explanation. We should be asking questions now before the next incident involves a much greater catastrophe.

Collisions Involving Two-Wheeled Vehicles for September 2018

September may be approaching the end of a deadly season of two-wheeled fatalities.

A summary of collisions in September of 2018 that have been reported by official news agencies in Southern Ontario has provided some expected revelations. This summary is from news stories focused in areas of Southwestern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) including the Niagara Region through to Windsor. Stories from the Ottawa area and into more northern regions such as North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie have been excluded. While our summary has not documented every news story ever written it contains the majority of the fatalities and major injury collisions that have been reported in news media websites in the noted areas.

For September 2018, 63 news stories of such collisions were noted. Of those incidents 10 involved motorcyclists, 4 involved bicyclists and 6 involved e-bikes and scooters. Thus of the total of 63 news stories, 20 of these major collisions involved two-wheeled vehicles, or about 30 percent. Injury levels of those two-wheeled riders included 7 fatalities, 5 critically injured, 6 seriously injured and 2 with minor injuries.

While not an epidemic these data express the commonly understood fact that a significant problem exists with the numbers of fatalities and injuries in this category of two-wheeled vehicles. The results of any investigations of how and why these collisions occur are basically non-existent. While news media provide some basic information about the location and severity of these incidents, none of this information is useful for the public’s essential understanding of the problem.

Additional Cyclist Speed Observations Made At Meadowlily Site

Cyclist safety is being examined by Gorski Consulting at selected locations of downgrades in London, Ontario.

Gorski Consulting has completed a second round of observations of cyclist speeds at the Meadowlily Road slope south of the old Thames River bridge in London, Ontario. Average speeds were calculated from observations made on August 31, 2018 however not enough data was collected. Thus a second round of observations was conducted on September 15th. Observations have been made at other sites where down-slopes exist so that some appreciation can be had of how recreational cyclists behave. Further discussions of the results will be posted on this website in the near future.

Moving Queues of Stopped Traffic – A Safety Challenge on Major Expressways

Difficulties arise when drivers expecting the free flow traffic on the right, experience the stopped traffic on the left.

Moving queues of stopped traffic on major expressways are a serious problem for public safety. Drivers who may travel for several hours at speeds of over 100 km/h develop the expectation that this free flow will continue into the immediate future. Maintaining a vigilance over several hours toward a seemingly unchanging condition may be performed by many drivers over many instances. However the high frequency of exposure over a life-time of driving means that eventually instances of inattention will occur. Of the thousands of drivers that travel on a segment of a major expressway every hour it only requires the inattention of a single driver to cause a major incident. This is particularly so when an unexpected incident causes a sudden stoppage of traffic and a queue begins to snake its way backwards towards approaching drivers who are not expecting that stoppage.

Lack of formal training in human behaviour causes many judgments to be made and misconceptions to be developed that fail to address the root problem. Those who could provide that insight are often not those posting their views on social media or given an opportunity to inform the public in formal news segments. Attention failures are not indicators of driver “stupidity” but are a demonstration of the reality that human performance has certain limitations because of the way we process information and respond to it. Though it is insufficient in its detail, it can be said that humans focus their attention on one item of information at a time and we are programmed to focus our attention on items that are seemingly of greater importance. Thus in most traffic instances, it is not that drivers are inattentive but rather they are attentive to other things besides what we, in hindsight, expect of them.

It is not that distant in time when similar problems of human behaviour have caused injuries and fatalities in various farm and industrial settings. Various stamping, crushing and cutting machines have been operated by humans who have sometimes become entangled in the machinery resulting their being stamped, crushed or cut apart. The obvious comment could be made that these operators simply had to stop placing their hands or clothing into the location of the machinery that would cause them to be entrapped and dragged into the moving machine. Such sage advice did not solve the problem. Instead various guards were put in place so that operators would not be placed in proximity to mechanisms that would capture them. Also various sensors were built into the machinery that would stop the operation of the machinery if an entrapment of the operator was sensed. This was the progress of technology that corrected the safety problems. While great effort may be expended via public education to the need to maintain vigilance on major expressways it is unlikely to make a large difference in increasing public safety. As in the past technological changes are needed.

One technology that could make a large difference is automatic emergency braking. Such systems do not require the driver to be attentive to traffic ahead in order to apply braking because the system is designed to detect stopped or slowing traffic that may not be in the driver’s view. Time is required before the such systems improve in their ability to deal with the full complexity of all real-life scenarios.

In the meantime some transportation agencies have attempted to develop technological systems on the highways themselves. As an example in 2011 the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) developed a system of early warnings for queues of stopped traffic on approach to expressway construction sites. Portable speed sensors were erected to detect the speed of traffic as far back as 7.5 miles from the construction zone. Portable, changeable message signs were erected to warn drivers of the developing stoppage of traffic. Also portable rumble strips were laid across the lanes to create audible and tactile warnings. TxDOT indicated that their system reduced crashes by 45%. Such systems may not be a full solution for situations where a sudden stoppage occurs from emergency situations such as collisions. However they are an attempt in the proper direction of using technology to correct a serious, recurring safety problem that exists throughout modern expressways.

In the immediate area of southern Ontario, expressways such as Highways 400, 401, 402 and 403 carry a large percentage of heavy truck traffic. It is not uncommon to see trucks travelling very close to each other at highway speeds. As shown in the photo below, the view of these drivers is blocked by the wall created by the large dimensions of the trailers of the trucks ahead. Thus they are unable to detect the occurrence of emergencies that develop.

Truck drivers have limited visibility ahead when travelling too close together and are unable to react to situations such as merging traffic from an on-ramp.

There is various research on heavy truck braking. One source comes from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration as shown below.

The table shown the next two photos provides data on the braking distances required by various heavy trucks from highway speeds.

The reported distances (in feet) do not include the perception-response delay that would occur as the driver detects, identifies and then commences a reaction to the incident. In some instances, such as a bob-tail (a road tractor minus its trailer), the braking distance can be over 500 feet  or 150 metres. This is about the length of 1 and a half football fields.

There should be little wonder when, faced with a sudden requirement to brake such truck drivers are often the ones who collide into lighter, stopped vehicles ahead. Rather than singling these persons out as the cause of the highway problem, it is necessary to recognize the difference in exposure and address the root of the problem.

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Increased percentages of heavy truck traffic is also a problem because of the inability to brake at the same level of efficiency as light vehicles.



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