In news media reports from November 14, 2019 it was revealed that Brenda King, a resident of Chatham, Ontario died when her vehicle was found submerged in a water-filled ditch next to Tecumseh Road between Lake St Clair and Tilbury, Ontario. A single photo, shown below, was made available to the public, via the OPP, showing the vehicle resting on its wheels on a road surface. In the background one can see a water-filled ditch.
There was little mention of the tragedy in any of the majors news outlets. And there was little information about the specific location where the vehicle was found. Comparing the background in the photo Gorski Consulting examined Googlemaps images and was able to locate the site, as shown in several images below.
Clearly this site does not contain any barrier to prevent vehicles from entering the water. While Tecumseh Road likely contains a low traffic volume the site is also the location of a T-intersection with Essex County Road 39 which leads to the higher population area of Lighthouse Cove on the shore of Lake St Clair. Thus any vehicles that might miss detecting the stop sign at the T-intersection would also end up in the water-filled ditch. There was no indication from news media or police as to how Ms. King’s vehicle ended up submerged and which direction she was travelling.
Furthermore, a 2008 Transportation Master Plan of the Town of Lakeshore (where the site resides) recommended that this intersection be improved to carry more traffic, as noted in this quote taken from the 2008 study:
“Lighthouse Community Access – At present, the Lighthouse community is provided with only one formal access via CR 39. This roadway and other associated connections are susceptible to restrictions from temporary flooding and rail operations. From an emergency services perspective, the Town should pursue a second allseason road connection to this area.”
This recommended improvement is also noted in graphic form showing other recommended improvements for the area, as shown in the upper right corner of the figure below.
Regrettably, the Transportation Master Plan focused on Level of Service in terms of the numbers of vehicles that might be using the various roadways and what improvements would be needed to improve the flow of traffic. At no point did the Master Plan address the serious safety deficiencies that existed, not only at the site of the drowning of Ms. King but at many of the other sites in the area where bodies of water exist close to the road edges and there is not barrier existing to protect the driving public from death due to drowning. In many respects, this document provides a glimpse of similar analysis and projections that are conducted by various professional engineering firms that focus on “Level of Service” rather than, or including, “Level of Safety”.
The difficulty has been discussed by Gorski Consulting in several postings to this website where the installation of various barriers along roadsides is recognized as a major cost item. The Counties of Lambton, Kent and Essex contain a large number of secondary roadways where water-filled ditches exist. As a result Gorski Consulting has reported on many previous deaths due to drowning in these Counties, similar to the one being discussed. This major cost makes it difficult to provide those large numbers of barriers that are needed. In the years before the enactment of Ontario’s Municipal Act, the Province of Ontario was much more involved in the standardization of roads, especially in the standardization of levels of safety. As the responsibility of the maintenance of roads were downloaded to individual municipalities regional disparities emerged as richer areas, or areas of less demand, are able to deal with safety improvements from their own tax base. But for mainly rural areas of the Counties of Lambton, Kent and Essex, infrastructure improvements remain limited due to the limited means to make them. And here lies the folly in this non-standardization of safety in the Province. Not only do local residents suffer the potential from drowning in water-filled ditches but visitors to the area, who are not familiar with specific roadways, fall into these “mouse traps”.
There have been many incidents such as the one experienced by the family and acquaintances of Brenda King where individuals do not carry a loud voice that can be heard by the general public. When police and news media do not publicize the dangers of these ditches no one knows or cares.
Past history is a educator when we look at the numbers of reported drowning in official Provincial statistics. In the 1988 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report the following statistics were noted with respect to vehicular drownings in the Province:
Number of Motor Vehicles Involved in Accidents Based on Initial Impact Type –
Impact of “Water Course” =, no fatals, 6 personal injury collisions, 7 property damage collisions, no fatals.
Submersion = No fatals, 1 personal injury collision, 3 property damage collisions.
No fatals in all of the year in 1988, yet we can read of several submersion deaths in the news media every month in the last few years. And Gorski Consulting has listed these instances in a number of news items and articles on this website. So who do we believe? Has there suddenly become a large increase in fatals from drowning in the last few years. Or have the annual statistics from the Province of Ontario failed to flag these instances?
Whether it be in the realm of religion, culture, climate, race, politics or justice there has been a marked increase in the emotional content of society’s judgment. Whether it is the internet that is causing this polarization and radicalization or some unknown accelerant, it is readily visible in any recent, public communication.
This observation is no different in the realm of roadway collision investigation and safety analysis. Where we could count on cooler heads to prevail, judgment of basic incidents seems to take a heated twist. A case in point is a recent incident involving another vehicle fire that occurred in a Mississauga, Ontario parking lot. Peel Regional Police attempted to make light of the result that a driver was observed doing “donuts” in the parking lot, and subsequently the vehicle caught fire. The driver apparently escaped and fled the scene. The phrase used in the Peel police Twitter posting indicated the words “We highly recommend you ‘donut’ try this’. – Sorry. I couldn’t resist”. We believe humour is good for the soul so minimal harm done. However, the potential consequences were not humorous. While there was obvious anger simmering toward the driver under the writings of many social media posts, this also clouded the reality that the fire was of suspicious origin.
We have all seen the burn outs of a hot summer night when young men demonstrate their immaturity by performing high accelerations and various spin outs before police arrive. That has been happening since our grand-father’s days. And it is not likely to change in basic format. High acceleration causes high tire and brake friction which causes heat and then fire. A simple recipe, so why bother complicating it? But on snow-covered surfaces that high friction is likely to be much less than in summer. And high heat from brake system applications is also suspect when there is little resistance to lock-up the wheels. Yes, some of the result may be due to the foolishness of the driver. But there is more to this.
Many vehicles have been observed to catch fire on our roads without much concern or investigation. Many of these fires have occurred under questionable circumstances. When such fires occur after an impact there is little or no concern expressed by either police or news media. The fire is just something that is mentioned in passing, if at all. Yet there have been the occasional fires where occupants have been trapped and perished in the worst way, not related to the impact, but due to the fire. No one wants to discuss these results because it is claimed that it might upset the family and friends of the deceased. And so we move on to the next fire and the next potential fatality.
What appears to exist in the minds of those examining this story about the ‘donut driver’ is that somehow we believe he (or she) would deserve to be burned alive because they were stupid enough to perform donuts in a parking lot. It was noted that only a few days earlier a number of drivers had closed down a major highway in Toronto in order to perform those donuts and then escaped without detection. This irritated both police and many in the general public. So now there is a resultant lashing out at anyone alleged to perform similar acts. No longer do we wish to conduct an objective investigation as to how this fire started. What is vastly more important is that we find this guy (or girl).
We must recognize the importance of keeping our emotions in check and understanding how emotion can cloud our objective reasoning. We do not need to look very far back in our collective history to recognize the disasters that have erupted when we allow hysteria/contagion to cloud our reasoning. When we read the inflammatory social media posts of others, and participate in them, we must become educated about what that is doing to us and how it is changing and controlling us, often not for the better.
Chilling words from the fictional Nazi character Major Strasser to Ilsa Lund in the classic 1942 movie Casablanca. The movie was filled with propaganda to stir the western world in its war effort against Nazi Germany, along with digs against the hypocrisy behind truth and justice of that era. Casablanca has steadily gained popularity such that it is now judged to be one of the “best” films ever produced.
Casablanca’s relevance in today’s society is that It is a reminder that the Major Strasser’s of the world can return to threaten our freedoms, and even our lives. Many Europeans did not dream that the glorious war that erupted in the late summer of 1914 would become so brutal and deadly. Then, when it appeared that peace would prevail, an even more sinister uprising occurred with the likes of Benito Mussolini, Francesco Franco and Adolf Hitler, leading the way into the second world war. As the last few veterans of that terrible time have slowly passed away their voices, that would have provided us with wise counsel, speak only in soft whispers, beneath their inscribed tombstones, where few bother to stoop closer and listen.
We have a choice about the world we wish to live in and pass on to our children. That choice started yesterday as it affected what occurred today. We have history to guide us, should we choose to review it. However, history is not without its untruths as those who wrote it determined what it would say. So there must also be a Sherlock Holmes within us to separate truth from fiction in an honest and unbiased way.
Above all, we must remember what it is that we need to remember on Remembrance Day. While we are told we must remember the courage and dedication of those who fell to protect our freedom, that is not the case. Above that, the greater importance is to remember how and why we came to the position where all those courageous and dedicated men and women had no choice but to lay their lives down for us all. These were not some mythical, super-heros, they were ordinary persons like you and I. Decisions were made by a few that led to the deaths of millions, and may do so again.
We cannot continue to play in the band, not missing a note, while our ship steadily inches over the waterfall, while fearing to stop our fellow players who dutifully play on. Tapping each other on the shoulder to disrupt the music and suggesting that we should all ask our captain to change course is not such a radical idea.
It is apparent that basic information about the dangers of moving over and slowing down is being mis-reported leading to the potential of increased numbers and severity of collisions. In many instances initiation of braking and steering can be more dangerous than doing nothing at all.
In an OPP Twitter notification of a fatal collision that involved the death of a tow truck driver on Hwy 12 near Port Perry, Ontario on November 7, 2019 the issue of moving over and/or braking was discussed. In their description of the collision the OPP reminded motorists that they should “slow down and move over” when they see a tow truck or emergency vehicle with lights flashing”. A photo of the accident site was attached in the posting and it is reproduced below. It was not noted how the collision occurred and we must surmise this from the single photo.
Given the limited information it might best be explained that the red car was the original vehicle that came to rest in the ditch and the tow truck came to a stop next to it to pull it out of the ditch. The silver car in the distance was likely the second vehicle and the orange and blue cones likely identify the path of the tires of that vehicle before and after impact. No other photos were provided so the public can not determine what was located behind the camera and what might have prompted both vehicles to exit the roadway. There appears to be some damage to the left front corner of the red car which is not consistent with what would occur if it just slid off the road. So one possibility is that the silver car struck the left front corner of the red car and pushed it further into the ditch. But we don’t know. This is the type of guessing game that the public needs to conduct in order to obtain some idea of what actually happened. A crucial fact in all this is the condition of the roadway behind the camera.
Certainly there is snow on the roadsides and possibly this was a factor. We look at the background of the photo and see that the roadway is wet and not snow-covered. But then we do not know when this photo was taken in relation to the time of the crash or if road maintenance personnel drove through the site with salt and cleared the snow cover before the photo was taken.
We see snow on top of the tow truck. While we would expect to see the flashing lights on top of the cab of the truck we would also expect to see alternating flashing lights on at the back of the cab. Yet there appears to be snow covering two, small, circular areas where we would expect to see flashing lights. So were those flashing lights obscured by the snow?
And the overhead flashing light bar itself is not very prominent. So did that play a factor in the truck’s visibility?
Although the sky is essentially clear in the background we do not know the proximity of the collision time to when the photo was taken. The OPP indicated that the collision occurred in the morning but did it occur at 0100, 0600 or at 0800 hours. The visibility could involve total darkness, heavy snowfall or bright sunshine. We just don’t know.
Were there other vehicles indirectly involved? Was there a third or fourth vehicle that blocked the view of the driver of the silver car such that the tow truck was not visible until the last few seconds? If the driver of the silver car distracted, why was the driver so successful in avoiding contact with the tow truck and almost avoiding contact with the red car? Coincidence? Perhaps.
Looking at the final rest position of the silver car we know that it travelled a substantial distance after clearing the location of the two other vehicles. By considering some possible rates of deceleration we might arrive at an estimate of the vehicle’s speed. (By the way, the contact with the red car may have produced a “non-deployment” event on the silver car’s event data recorder and the police might have a precise speed at that impact). For argument’s sake, let us assume a post-impact travel distance of 40 metres with a deceleration value of 0.4 g resulting in an estimated impact speed of about 64 km/h. Judging that the vehicle would travel an additional distance from the centre of the lane up to the point of impact which might be at angle of 8 to 10 degrees we might consider an additional speed loss over that distance. This would provide an indication of the car’s speed when it began its motion toward the roadside. Using a computer simulation program we might study what kind of steering input, if any, might lead the vehicle to such a path. If a steering input was applied we might ask why the driver would do so, rather than steering away from the tow truck.
In earlier years, before electronic stability control, it was easy to detect when a loss-of-control took place because the vehicle would rotate about its vertical axis like a top. Invariably such a vehicle would reach a sideways angle approaching 90 degrees before the tires would dig in and the vehicle would begin to rollover. But here we appear to have two tire marks on the grass which suggest that the vehicle was travelling into impact leading with its front end, not sliding sideways and/or rotating. Yet, this could be a function of the electronic stability control, keeping the vehicle pointing straight ahead even through the vehicle is not under control of its driver. So the situation is more complicated without examining data from its event data recorder. Data that neither we, nor the public, can examine.
Newton’s First Law of Motion indicates that a vehicle will continue to travel along its original path until its motion is altered by an external, unbalanced force. What does that mean for collision avoidance? Braking and steering are unbalanced forces that act upon a vehicle at the interface of the tires and the surface on which it travels. On a smooth, dry, paved, highway surface our vehicle will travel along a straight road with only minimal inputs from the accelerator pedal (to nullify rolling and wind resistance) and a slight steering input to nullify the designed cross-slope (typically 2 percent) of the travel lane. In this condition we have (almost) the full tire force available to us when emergency actions are required. Thus we are in a stable situation.
When approaching a tow truck or other emergency vehicles stopped on a roadside we are required to steer away from those and apply our brakes to reduce our speed. These actions are not readily available on two-lane highways. They are more commonly discussed on multi-lane expressways such as Highway 401 and other 400-Series highway in Ontario. So we will consider this environment before returning to the example collision noted above.
Steering out of a lane and braking on a multi-lane expressway such as Highway 401 cannot be performed blindly and without forethought. Steering and braking have repercussions not only to the stability of our vehicle but also to the expectations of drivers around us. When the road surface is wet or slippery from snow, ice or other deposits on the road, the tire force can be reduced, sometimes to dangerously low levels. In those circumstances it can be dangerous to apply braking and steering without considering the consequences. Furthermore, often the tire force is not equal on all parts of the pavement. And the braking or steering force may also not be ideal due to conditions of a vehicle’s tires, suspension or weight distribution. These imbalances can cause an initial unintended vehicle motion that, through delayed attempts of correction, lead to a magnification of the problem. This inappropriate timing of corrections has been long known in loss-of-control collision causation.
Also steering into another lane cannot be done blindly and it takes time to look in one’s mirrors to assess if and when this can be done safely. Examination of lane changes by heavy trucks indicates that those changes need a time of 7 seconds or more, not including the perceptions needed by the driver to evaluate the need for a lane change. While smaller vehicles need less time for a lane change it, never-the-less, cannot be “done on a dime”. At 110 km/h a vehicle would travel about 30.5 metres every second or about 214 metres in 7 seconds.
In many instances the visibility of drivers ahead is not ideal. Some of this poor visibility is due to driver selection of a reduced following distance. But on a high volume highway such as the 401 almost everyone drives with inadequate following distance, otherwise, there would be vehicles continually steering into the gap and causing further reductions in that gap. So these gaps are not necessarily selected by the driver as they are a function of the driving environment. A further danger is that the Ontario government has mandated speed-limiting on heavy trucks and thus they travel at a much slower speed than the other traffic around them. This speed differential is the true cause of many highway safety problems as drivers of smaller vehicles attempt to weave around the larger, slower ones. In this process the large trucks act as mobile walls that prevent visibility ahead at many occasions when drivers are changing lanes. This is the factor that leads to many instances where drivers are not aware of stopped vehicles on the roadside even if they are emergency vehicles with flashing lights. When detection is made it is often done when a lane change cannot be done in safety and a dilemma occurs: Do I stay in the lane and take the chance of being charged, or do I attempt to make an unsafe lane change? In some instances of drivers who drive strictly according to the book, a dangerous lane change is made causing other drivers to take evasive action. This leads to collisions of other drivers while the “by the book” driver who causes the mess escapes detection.
In those instances where steering and/or braking may be dangerous, the option of doing nothing must also be considered. While this may create less than ideal results for exposed persons on the ground, it is a question of knowing what will achieve the best and safest outcome. Sometimes doing nothing is an act of a reckless driver while in other instances it is one of an experienced and safety-conscious driver who has properly considered the consequences.
The unfortunate result of the move-over law is that there are times when a driver has chosen the correct action of doing nothing, and thus passing emergency vehicles without slowing or steering, yet that driver may be penalized simply for that observed fact.
Returning to the example of the fatal collision of the tow truck driver, steering out of the lane to avoid the tow truck could have been the cause of the second vehicle’s striking the tow truck driver and travelling into the ditch. This is common when substantial snow comes down but the temperature is high enough that the traffic is able to melt away the snow within the tire tracks of the lane. What remains is a set of tire tracks with bare but wet pavement. Outside of those tire tracks lies the unmelted snow that could be several inches deep depending on the specifics of the snow event. The available tire force is quite high on the wet pavement within the tire tracks, often in the range of 0.5 g. Conversely the area of the lane immediately adjacent to the tire tracks, where several inches of snow may exist, may exhibit a force on that snow that may be 0.2 g or sometimes lower. Compounding this problem is that a vehicle wandering out of the tire tracks, toward the centre-line, may experience the snow edge at only the left side tires. The real problem now reveals itself when a driver attempts to steer and brake while the left side tires are on the snow, where the tire force is substantially reduced, while the right side tires are on bare pavement. The difference in tire force creates a “moment” about the vehicle’s centre of gravity which results in rotation. Again this rotation is not necessarily immediate and final. We know from studying the tire tracks of such vehicles in severe, highway-speed loss-of-control collisions that there can be a series of adjustments made by the driver that are delayed in terms of when those adjustments are needed. So for example, when the rear end of vehicle rotates out the right the driver detects this at a delayed time and applies counter-steering just when that rear end is beginning to rotate back to the left and this increases the magnitude of the next rotation in the opposite direction. This “fish-tailing” due to inappropriate steering and braking inputs eventually leads to a crisis where the vehicle rotation is beyond recovery. In newer vehicles Electronic Stability Control (ESC) steps in to reduce the wrongful effects caused by the driver by manipulating tire forces at each wheel to keep the vehicle pointing in the direction that it is travelling. But when tire forces are low and driver inappropriate driver inputs work against ESC there is a limit to what can be achieved and the vehicle exits the road surface, albeit pointing in the direction it is travelling, much like the silver vehicle’s path shown in the photo above.
The point of this discussion is that steering away and braking for stopped emergency vehicles and out of the regular travel path of a partially snow-covered road can lead to a disaster. Yet this is precisely what is being advised in the OPP discussion accompanying the photo. It is an example of the type of uninformed propaganda this is provided by persons who do not understand what dangers they are creating by making these broad generalizations.
What is essential in this discussion is a proper education of the public. Every day there are numerous serious and fatal collisions that could be used as examples to educate the public about what led to those tragic consequences. Those opportunities are missed because the details of police investigations are kept away from the public’s knowledge. Equally, the deep knowledge and experience that is essential to properly educate the public is also lost when police and news media do not possess that essential training and experience to educate the public.
How has traffic changed in 10 years? Does Electronic Stability Control make a big difference in preventing loss-of-control collisions. How about lane departure technologies, are they effective? These are some of the questions that are being answered as Gorski Consulting compares the results of videotaping from 10 years ago to the new videotaping conducted this fall. The site of these documentations is a complex S-curve on Clarke Road at the north-eastern edge of London, Ontario.
Ten years ago we began official documentations at the Clarke Road site. Videotaping was conducted but also still photos began to be taken every three or four days to document evidence of vehicular loss-of-control. Now after tens years of such documentation the results are becoming revealing.
Preliminary work has involved comparing the traffic volume between 2009 and 2019. The results generally indicate that traffic volume has increased about 50% through the curve. We have also been documenting the number of trucks and buses which range as low as 3 to 4 % to as his as 30% depending on the time of day.
In the near future we will be examining the number of vehicles either “falling” off the outside asphalt edge or steering fully into the opposing lane as a way of using a short cut around the sharp curve. Comparing 2009 to 2019 may help to explain how drivers chose to behave but also whether modern technology is also affecting the vehicle motions in the curve.
Stay tuned for these upcoming results.
No photos were available nor were any details provided yet another motorist was killed when a vehicle caught fire after striking a pole on Dufferin Street in Vaughan, Ontario at approximately 0130 hours this morning. CP24 News reported that “Investigators were out on the street …tracing the tire marks of the vehicle as it veered off the roadway”. Yet there was no indication that investigators conducted any inquiry as to why the vehicle caught fire. And none of the official news reporting agencies could confirm whether the driver died from the impact with the pole or due to the subsequent fire.
In a separate incident that occurred just a few hours earlier, a truck became engulfed in flames in the eastbound lanes of the QEW in Oakville, Again, nothing was said about how or why the fire started. The greatest concern appeared to be that the fire was causing a traffic tie-up.
These incidents indicate the extent to which no one is paying attention to vehicle fires even though some may be resulting is gruesome consequences.
It was ten years ago that research was formally commenced by Gorski Consulting on the S-curve at Clarke Road north of Fanshawe Park Road in London, Ontario. In the fall of 2009 a series of 6 videotaping sessions was completed, each about 1.5 hours long, that documented traffic as it passed through the challenging S-curve of Clarke Road. An number of incidents were captured showing vehicles driving off the asphalt edge. Other incidents showed vehicles driving fully into the opposing lane in order to avoid making the sharp turn within the lane. Such safety issues are relevant not only with respect to the present site, or other sites in and around the London area. They are relevant to any City, Province, State or Country where the cause of loss-of-control collisions needs greater understanding.
While our research has continued we have not engaged in a repetition of the large-scale, videotaping sessions until this fall – the tenth anniversary of the original testing. Thus drivers may have observed several cameras placed along the S-curve in this past week as we attempt to duplicate the data that was obtained ten years earlier. The cameras need to placed at relatively hidden locations so the actions of drivers are not affected by the their presence, otherwise the point of the research would be lost. We have purposely been setting the resolution of the video to low levels so as not to capture the identity of individual drivers, license plates and so on. Not only is this so that the public is not inconvenienced but also because the lower resolution is needed to that video data can be incorporated in a video-editing program without causing the program to crash because of overload. As we use consumer-grade computers they do not possess the processing power that may be needed by larger government agencies or research institutions. Nor is that level of technology necessarily needed for our level of study.
One interesting result of the research may be to compare the success of vehicles passing through the curve. Since 2011 electronic stability control has been mandated in Canada. Similarly various lane departure systems have been installed. If those systems are working then they should result in less departures from the paved surface of Clarke Road in the 2019 data versus what was documented in 2009. So one can see that there are obvious research positives in gathering and reviewing this data.
Over the years a number of articles have been posted on the Gorski Consulting website dealing with our testing at the Clarke Road site. Some of the articles may no longer be accessible in the current version of the website software that was installed approximately 18 months earlier – we do not have the time to check. That is regrettable. Gorski Consulting does not use an independent website consultant who could probably make these changes. It is not an easy task to take an old article and transfer it, using the new software, into the present website. So we are slow at making improvements.
As the Clarke Road data is compiled and evaluated we hope to share some of the results in upcoming website articles.
Knowing what a typical pattern of damage in a head-on collision should look like can be useful in understanding what happened seconds before an impact.
As I have measured damaged vehicles from hundreds of severe frontal impacts I have also created large scale diagrams and matched “points of mutual contact” that can be used to follow the progress of the motion between initial contact and separation of the vehicles. During these detailed studies I developed the understanding that there are typical and common patterns of crush and they are correlated to some pre-collision happenings. A knowledge of these facts can help investigators to understand what evidence is likely to exist and what needs to be documented before it is lost. But this knowledge can also be used by the general public to evaluate when something shown in photos of police and official news media is not exactly as it has been reported. These interpretations are not foolproof nor are the damage patterns absolutely distinct from one another. Generally these interpretations cannot stand alone unless there is some very specific and obvious evidence that indisputably leaves no other interpretations. While such singular, indisputable evidence is not common it is also not wise to ignore the obvious fact when it exists.
For the purposes of education I have selected a recent fatal head-on where the OPP have made the photograph of the two vehicles public. Before continuing on I want to acknowledge the obvious fact that this was a tragic event where someone has lost their life and there are family and persons who are greatly affected by this tragedy. On the other hand there are no convenient times or ways to discuss these important matters. Education is an important element in preventing future tragedies and in providing justice to those who may be wronged by a system of justice that sometimes acts like a bull in a china shop.
So below is the noted photo of the two vehicles at their final rest positions. Many pages of detailed comment can be made about this happening and this will simply lose the readers’ attention so I will be brief.
I have often discussed previous incidents where the patterns of damage are unusual, at best, and may not reflect the description provided to the public. In proceeding to describe what the damage should look like it becomes difficult to provide that visual in words. So the above photo helps in that it shows the most common form of crush that occurs in a severe head-on collision. It shows the fact that head-on collisions that occur on highways, at highway speeds, create offset contacts. What I mean is that the vehicles do not strike each other, license plate to license plate, but that the direct contact is offset. In a high percentage of impacts the offset of the direct damage is to the left. In other words there is direct contact to the driver’s side of the front end and there is no direct damage toward the passenger’s side of the front end. Next, both vehicles will exhibit very similar patterns of damage/crush. The maximum crush will be at the left corner of the both vehicles and there will be progressively less crush toward the right until the point where there is a major “deflection point” where the right corners of the vehicles exist and the crush suddenly becomes much less. The damage to the right of this deflection point is typically “induced damage” and is differentiated from the “direct damage” in many ways.
Next we will note that the right front corners of both vehicles will be pulled to the left. This happening is quite obvious in both vehicles shown in the above photo. This pattern of (rather) identical damage patterns has been previously described as “book ends” in that both vehicles look the same. This pattern of damage is most commonly associated with instances where one driver may be involved in a passing motion and is unable to return to his/her own vehicle in time and the opposing driver has not applied sufficient counter-steering to make a large difference. Thus both vehicles are coming toward each other at 180 degrees. The actual approach angle in the example shown above cannot be known because we cannot see the left sides of the vehicles and that is crucially important. So let’s leave this discussion as it is for now so as not to lose the readers’ attention.
Now, when we do not see this very common pattern of damage and someone talks about a passing motion with no driver reaction then our ears should begin to perk up and we should look a little closer. We do not conclude that there is something wrong in what we are told, but we simply pay more attention to what else might be involved. In reality this discussion becomes much more complicated but at least, for now, we have observed what is the most common and typical pattern of damage in a serious head-on collision.
The fact that a driver was drunk seems to make all the difference in a vehicle fire. That would seem to be the case in a collision on Oxford Street at Guildwood Blvd in London yesterday evening, October 5, 2019. An unidentified passenger vehicle struck a lamp standard on a centre median of Oxford Street and continued onto a lawn where it came to rest.
Witnesses claimed that just before the impact the driver was “swerving all over the road”. After the impact witnesses removed the driver from the vehicle before it went up in flames. The driver was charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle and, since there were no serious injuries it was deemed a matter of minimal importance.
Photos of the front end of the vehicle showed a prominent, narrow crush in the centre of the bumper which also reached the front edge of the hood. Such crush would be viewed as moderate at least. Certainly not a situation where a fire should have been inevitable. So why did the fire start? Is that not a relevant question? What if the vehicle was not occupied by an impaired driver but by a mother transporting three of her children? What if there were not witnesses to remove the mother or the children? Would that not be a tremendous tragedy? So why is this not relevant? The fact that no one was seriously injured or burned to death was simple circumstance and luck. Officials should not be relying on circumstance and luck to protect the public as obviously that luck will change. Incidents like these must be documented throughout Ontario and Canada and they must be investigated to make sure we are not causing unnecessary injuries and deaths.
Another fatality related to a post-collision fire has occurred this morning, October 3, 2019, on Simcoe Street just north of its intersection with Old Simcoe Road, north of Oshawa, Ontario. While police reported that this was a head-on collision it was not quite so. A white pick-up truck had been heading northbound on Simcoe Street when its driver likely lost directional control of the truck causing it to rotate into the southbound lane and into the path of a white Volkswagen, reportedly occupied by an elderly couple. There was substantial, direct-contact crush across the complete front end of the southbound car confirming that it was not a typical, front-end to front-end impact. Typical front-end to front-end impacts would involve off-sets of the striking ends and therefore you would see more crush at one corner than the other, there would be bowing of the non-contacted corner and the profile between the direct and induced damage would be clearly imprinted in the vehicle’s front end. The characteristics of damage on the car’s front end was indicative of an impact to the side of the Pick-up and this could be confirmed by looking at the bowed right side of the Pick-up even though police had covered it in a tarp.
A roadside interview of Constable George Tudos, representing Durham Regional Police, confirmed what would be expected in the manner that the police investigation was carried out. Instead of focusing on why the Pick-up truck caught fire and therefore caused the fatal injuries to its driver, Constable Tudos focused the media’s attention on their attempts to determine if speed, alcohol or slippery road conditions may have led to the collision. This is typical of the actions of police who fail to understand the importance of collision-related fires and the need to document them so they may be prevented.
Earlier today Gorski Consulting reported how another, double-fatal collision occurred on Hwy 406 in the Thorold area and where the possibility of a fire leading to the deaths of two occupants was not properly discussed. When police do not provide the essential information, and when news media no longer have the investigative capabilities to conduct their own inquiries, the public is kept in the dark. Post-collision fires appear to be occurring in more numbers than they did years before yet no one who has the capability to identify the extent of the problem.