Example of a Relatively Safe Police Traffic Stop

Police traffic stops near busy or high speed roadways are a genuine danger. Mainly to the officer, but also to all traffic in the vicinity. A “Move Over” law has been enacted in Ontario that is an attempt to make such stops safer. Unfortunately new dangers are created when vehicles move over and slow down on the approach to a stopped police cruiser. There has always been a need to study these incidents and improve them.

A recent photo shown on an OPP Twitter account showed a reasonably safe instance, as shown below.

This example of an OPP traffic stop is about as safe as can be. But such stops can never be viewed as sufficiently safe.

There are several features in the photo that merit mention. Firstly, the van that was stopped moved over substantially to the right such that there is almost a full vehicle width between its driver’s side and the painted, white edge line of the road. Such lateral clearance from moving traffic is always desirable for obvious reasons.

Next, the OPP officer’s vehicle is an SUV and the large mass of this vehicle makes it better “blocking vehicle” than a typical police cruiser. The officer has also done the proper action of placing his SUV closer to the edge line than the stopped vehicle. This is an important safety issue because, as can be seen from where he is standing, he body is protected, to some degree, from potential passing vehicles that might veer toward him.

The faster that vehicles travel the more difficult it is for them to change their lateral position and angle in a given distance. Thus the police officer was correct in placing his SUV rather close to the back of the stopped vehicle because this will lessen the opportunity for faster-moving vehicles to penetrate, laterally into where he is standing. If he had placed his vehicle further back then there would be more opportunity for such faster vehicles to move laterally into where his is standing.

There would have been some advantage gained however if he had placed his SUV further back. This is because, if the SUV was struck, it would require that the SUV be pushed a longer distance before reaching the officer’s location. During that post-impact travel distance the SUV would be slowing down and, if the officer was struck by the SUV, the impact would generally be less severe. So there are trade offs to be considered.

By placing the SUV closer to the rear end of the stopped vehicle there is an advantage in that, if the SUV is struck, it will have less chance to rotate and miss contact with the vehicle ahead. It is important to recognize that, by striking the vehicle ahead the SUV loses its post-impact speed. This results in a lessening of the impact severity should the officer by struck by that SUV. In a sense it is adding additional mass to the blocking effect of the SUV and thus helps in protecting the officer when an impact occurs with the vehicle ahead.

In many instances when the two stopped vehicles are positioned as they are, there is a benefit gained when the impact force is not applied directly at the centre-of-gravity of each vehicle. This benefit is in creating rotation of each vehicle and this rotation helps in reducing the post-impact speed of each vehicle when the wheels of each vehicle have a “sliding sideways” component. If the wheels each vehicle are simply rolling forward that “rolling resistance” is very small and there is often very little slowing of the vehicles post-impact. So this non-central impact to each vehicle is another safety benefit. So it is important for the officer to have positioned the SUV at the offset position that he did with respect to the vehicle ahead.

Looking at the composition of the traffic in the lanes, it is obvious that this is an arterial roadway and not a high speed freeway. While some arterial roads may have posted speeds of 80 km/h, most have lower posted speeds. So this is an advantage. If this had been a high-speed freeway then the danger to the officer would be exponentially higher.

Furthermore, looking at the composition of the traffic one can see that it is made of passenger cars and LTVs (i.e. Light Trucks and Vans). That is a safety  benefit. Generally the vehicle that might strike the police SUV would be of a similar mass and that makes a huge difference in the post-impact results in terms of the post-impact speeds of the SUV and the other stopped vehicle.

The lack of any heavy trucks in this view is of great benefit, not only because of the mass issue, but also because of the visibility blockage that occurs whenever large trucks are in the vicinity. The driver of a passenger car or LTV who is travelling in regular traffic conditions is often positioned too close to the rear of heavy truck  and that driver’s vision is greatly reduced with respect to events that may be occurring or existing ahead. In some unfortunate incidents the drivers of such vehicles change lanes to the right without realizing that a police vehicle is stopped in that right lane resulting is potential deadly consequences. Similar issues arise when the driver of such a smaller vehicle is positioned adjacent to the large truck in the lane beside them. When there is a high percentage of heavy trucks on the road they can be bunched together and create and effective visibility wall preventing the driver of any smaller vehicle from seeing anything beyond that wall. Overall, visibility obstruction is a major issue whenever smaller vehicles are mixed with heavy trucks.

For many previous years there were major concerns with respect to the safety of police officers when their vehicles have been struck while stopped along major roads and highways. When police cruisers were primarily of the Ford Crown Victoria type there were many incidents of a rear-ended police cruiser catching fire as the gas tank was ruptured. Installation of protective bladders and other adjustments reduced those occurrences. However it is difficult to protect any passenger car occupant while it is stopped and struck by a heavy truck travelling at highway speed.

Ultimately a police traffic stop next to a high speed highway or freeway is never a safe situation in the scenarios that presently exist. Some safety benefit can be obtained by making every effort to position stopped vehicles as far away from the through traffic lanes. Unfortunately that is not always possible as police sometimes must place a cruiser in a live lane, for example, to protect persons that may be in that lane from a previous collision. Whether it is a struck pedestrian or a person trapped in a heavily damaged vehicle, there are instances where police cannot move persons off the travel lane into a safer location. In the early moments when through traffic has not built up to a stop or crawl the situation can be very dangerous. Lights and sirens may not be sufficient. As mentioned earlier, in the vicinity of heavy trucks visibility can be blocked. Sirens may be difficult to hear in the noisy realm of a busy highway.

It needs to be recognized that the danger posed to officers at a traffic stop are great. More education and publicity focused on the general public’s appreciation of the dangers may be of some assistance. However police also need to be properly trained and understand those potential dangers. When those dangers are too high they must consider aborting such a stoppage or make quick adjustments to the scenario to create a safer situation. The lives of those officers depend on an informed knowledge about the unique circumstances that each scenario may present.

Changes To SIU Forthcoming

News media have indicated that changes to Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) will be announced this week. The Ford conservative government stopped earlier Liberal legislation that would have improved the functioning of the SIU. That earlier legislation was in response to the detailed Tulloch Report in the spring of 2017. Justice Tulloch was a member of Ontario’s Court of Appeal and his recommendations for change were deep and broad. It remains to be seen what new changes will be made by the Ford government and whether it will follow the Tulloch recommendations.

A recent visit by Gorski Consulting to the SIU website has demonstrated that a large improvement has been made with respect  to its transparency. That is hardly a compliment as any change could only be better than the secretive functioning of the past. However, the major, improved difference is the public availability of the Director’s full report. Such a report contains the details of the SIU investigation such a photographs, measurements and diagrams. Previously no details of an investigation were ever made public, just a summary of the SIU’s conclusions.

The public availability of the Director’s report means that any independent party, such as Gorski Consulting, can examine the details of an investigation and a public comment or rebuttal can be made thus providing an additional input that the public can consider. While there are many aspects to the SIU investigations that are praiseworthy, it remains the continual problem that much of the conclusions are affected by the bias of the investigators. This is not to single out the SIU specifically, but bias is a continual problem that exists in all investigations that have been encountered over the four decades of our involvement in such matters.

Is this investigator a specialist in computer crime, forensic accounting or accident reconstruction? How does the public know?

One of the significant problems that still remain uncorrected in the SIU was never addressed in the Tulloch report. That problem relates to the transparency of the backgrounds, experience and education of its hired investigators and how that hiring took place. While the Tulloch report considered the sensitive issue of whether to allow persons with police backgrounds to become members of the SIU, it was never recommended that the backgrounds, education and experience of all members of the SIU should be made public. This continues to be a serious drawback to the SIU’s operations. Upon reading several of the Director’s reports it became clear that some conclusions were suspect and it came to the question of who made those conclusions and were the experience and training of those investigators sufficient to allow those conclusions to stand. The problem is that no one is able to examine the credentials of these investigators. Judging by some of the conclusions that were made in the reviewed Director’s reports it is our opinion that some investigators were lacking in those essential areas of training and experience. This shortcoming needs to be corrected by identifying the specific backgrounds of the investigators who were assigned to a specific investigation.

The process of how a person was hired to become a member of the SIU is also critical to the proper functioning of the SIU. It is through this knowledge of the hiring process that the public can be assured that individuals were not selected because they possessed a specific bias. Just because an individual possesses a police background, or any background, does not mean that they will necessarily operate in a biased fashion. However, given the very great importance of selecting unbiased individuals, there is a lack of focus by the SIU toward providing the essential public perception that it is doing all it can to remove any potential bias in its membership.

Documentation of Un-Reported Collisions Continues

How many collisions occur that never get officially reported? That fact can affect the reliability of collision statistics and what the public is told about roadway safety.

Gorski Consulting has been involved in a long term study of unreported collisions and incidents. Since 2009 a specific site in London, Ontario has been monitored and incidents of loss-of-control and evidence of collisions have been documented. This documentation has then been followed up with requests to the London City Police so that their collision data could be obtained and compared to our data.

Frame taken from video in October of 2009 showing a northbound car travelling on the wrong side of Clarke Road north of Fanshawe Park Road in London, Ontario. Markers in the northbound lane were used to examine speed and position of vehicles passing through the S-Curve.

In 2017 a series of five articles were uploaded to the Gorski Consulting website describing the details of our findings. These articles corresponded to the five years, 2011 to 2015 for which police data was available and compared. We recently made a second request to London Police and have received their additional data for the years 2016 and 2017. A sixth article in now close to being completed that discusses the findings from the 2016 data.

The trends from the previously announced analyses appear to be extending to the 2016 data. The main finding from this work is that at least 80% of collisions and loss-of-control incidents that occur at this site (Clarke Road north of Fanshawe Park Road) are not documented in the official police data.

This finding may have significant implications for a large amount of research that is based on police reported data. It is not the  news that a large number of official researchers, municipal transportation agencies, and other government institutions want to read or have known. When 80% of the data regarding collision occurrence is unknown how can analyses of large data files be expected to be reliable? While it is claimed that estimates can be generated from what data is known using a variety of complex algorithms few independent experts actually know the details of these calculations to confirm that they are truly reliable.

The results from our research is inconvenient and therefore publicity of these results has gained some resistance in official circles.

Red Hill Valley Parkway – Reduced Maximum Speeds Increases Chaos

Posted maximum speeds along the Red Hill Valley Parkway in Hamilton have been reduced. Such an action may produce more safety problems.

Even before the discussions about the hiding of the Tradewinds Scientific report, the City of Hamilton should have been aware of the contents of the 2013 CIMA report which indicated “An average of more than 500 vehicles per day were recorded exceeding 140 km/h” on the Red Hill Valley Parkway (RHVP).

The northbound road segment of the Red Hill Valley Parkway between Greenhill Ave and King Street in Hamilton, Ontario is the most challenging safety issue on the Parkway.

The reduction of the speed limit from 90 km/h to 80 km/h will have very little effect on the average operating speed because of the perception that drivers have about what speed is safe. What is not recognized is that even CIMA misjudged the level of safety of the RHVP in their report of 2015 by assuming that the design speed was 110 km/h rather than the 90 km/h that was eventually revealed. Thus even these experts who conducted the safety audit of the RHVP were misled. What could one expect of the average driver who does not possess the expertise of experience and training to understand what is meant by “design speed”?

What is likely to happen now that the speed limit is reduced is that much of the speed control will be given to police who will be asked to enforce the limit. Police will be waiting on the roadsides with their radar/lidar equipment and pulling drivers over to give them a traffic citation. What is not recognized is what new dangers that will  create.

With a much increased level of police presence along the sides of the RHVP there will be an increase in traffic chaos. Drivers attempting to follow the new “move over” laws will be attempting to change speeds and will be attempting to change lanes in the vicinity where the RHVP is already challenging with  respect to it horizontal and vertical curves, along with it substandard surface friction. This chaos is likely to produce an increase in collisions – the very collisions that the police (and City of Hamilton) are attempting to reduce.

This is the reality that is not being publicized.

What the research suggests is that there is a need to improve the safety conditions of the RHVP at its most dangerous location. That location is the northbound travel from the Greenhill exit to the King Street exit. That should take first priority.

Rapid Notification System For Emergency Expressway Closures

Set-up of a collision rapid notification system for emergency expressway closures is needed to deal with instances where a collision leads to additional collisions. The need becomes obvious from examination of many expressway, multi-vehicle pile-up collisions.

As a recent example, a fatal, multi-vehicle pile-up occurred in the westbound lanes of Highway 401 at Foldens Road, near Ingersoll, Ontario, on the afternoon of February 13, 2019. Following the original crash at Foldens Road, two additional, multi-vehicle collisions occurred to the east of that site. One of the subsequent collisions occurred near the On-Route service centre is just east of Foldens Road. Another subsequent collision occurred east of Sweaburg Road. The distance between Foldens Road and Sweaburg Road is about 7.5 kilometres and this provided some indication of the possible length in the backup of traffic that occurred as a result of the original collision.

Site of the fatal, multi-vehicle pile-up in the westbound lanes of Highway 401 near Foldens Road near Ingersoll, Ontario. (Courtesy OPP Twitter)

The latest counts indicate that traffic volume approaches about 70,000 (AADT) in this vicinity of Highway 401 which is equipped with three-lanes in each direction. About half of the weekday traffic is composed of heavy trucks. It is not difficult to comprehend that a stoppage in traffic can quickly build several kilometres behind an initial collision site.

The problem is that sudden traffic stops from collisions are unexpected. There is no signage to warn of the upcoming stoppage. In contrast, when a stoppage is the result of road construction and maintenance signs are posted for several kilometres before reaching the actual construction site. This signage is often insufficient when a stoppage occurred further behind the commencement of the signage. Yet, some benefit is achieved in comparison to the emergency stoppage from an unexpected collision. Thus it is this sudden and unexpected stoppage of traffic, often in poor weather, with poor surface and visibility conditions, that is the problem that needs to be addressed.

The problem is that when a collision occurs the responders who are the first to arrive are not equipped to deal with the traffic stoppage. Those responders are there to deal with the immediate emergency of securing the lives of those injured in a crash. Although the vehicles of those responders may be equipped with sirens and emergency lighting that equipment is often of limited use. The typical height of a police cruiser or ambulance is well below the height of the typical tractor-trailer. So when a large number of tractor trailers come to stop close to each other a tall wall is created which can block most of the view of any emergency vehicles.

Large blocking or crash trucks with TC-12 arrow signs are often positioned at lane closures when sufficient time is available. But such arrangements are often much too slow to deal with the sudden stoppages that occur from unexpected collisions. The question becomes whether a system can be set up to respond with such blocking or crash trucks at an earlier time. This question should be posed particularly in those times and locations when collisions are more likely to occur. So for examine, the approach of a winter storm is likely to generate road surface and visibility deterioration which is likely to lead to crashes. So can such blocking and crash trucks be in a state of alert, much like firemen waiting for an alarm? Can more notification systems be set up along busy expressways such as Highway 401 that can display warnings such as “Stopped Traffic Ahead”? These are the types of considerations that need to be discussed to minimize the probability of additional collisions when vehicles come to be stopped for an initial collision.

Furthermore, Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) is greatly needed at this time. Governments should do whatever they can to speed up the installation of this technology. AEB, if reliable, can do much to reduce collisions due to stopped traffic on expressways.

Red Hill Valley Parkway – The Public Deserves To Have Answers

“The Public Deserves To Have Answers”. These were the words of David Smosarski in a letter read at a meeting of the Hamilton City Council yesterday. His daughter Olivia had died in a May 5, 2015 crash on the Red Hill Valley Parkway almost two years after a lost 2013 report of Trandewinds Scientific was delivered to the City which described the inferior results of road surface friction testing on the Parkway.

Just as important in Smosarski’s letter were the following words: “To this day my family does not have any answers on why the car my daughter was a passenger in lost control that night”.

Northbound on the Red Hill Valley Parkway on approach to the King Street exit.

While the focus of the news media in Hamilton has been on the loss and subsequent finding of the Tradewinds report, there are broader issues that are relevant. These issues are exemplified by Mr. Smosarski’s words “…my family does not have any answers”. The tragedy of losing a daughter is one thing. But the Smosarski family has been victimized a second time by a system that has made “any answers” about how and why Olivia died very difficult to unravel. Part of the difficulty has been illuminated to the public by the tempest of the lost Tradewinds report. Otherwise the Smosarski family would be no different than many families who have suffered similar circumstances in silence. Their plight, as members of a very small group of citizens, has been of no official concern. Their voices have not been loud or strong enough to affect the future of any politicians. No organizations who are interested in goodwill, democracy and justice have ever raised a voice or helping hand. Likely because this small group of victimized families have never been heard of.

The victimization of the Smosarski family is not just due to the loss of the Trandewinds report. It is due to the overall secrecy that prevents them from knowing how Olivia died. This secrecy extends to issues about the release of information from the police investigation. It extends to the secrecy of what their insurance company has done about investigating the matter. It extends to the very high costs of obtaining legal advice and payment for investigation reports and experts. Costs for a private citizen to obtain a complete package of police investigation reports regarding a fatal collision run at about $9,000.00. Depending on the discretion of individual police forces some citizens cannot obtain any police reports regardless of what they may be willing to pay.

These are the broader facts that are unlikely to be discussed while the tempest of the lost Tradewinds report passes through the region.

David Smosarski deserves to have answers.

Automatic Emergency Braking Needed To Prevent Multi-Vehicle Crashes

Snow and poor visibility this past week has demonstrated the importance of speeding up the installation of automatic emergency braking (AEB).

Results of a multi-vehicle collision on Hwy 401 near Milton on February 13, 2019. (Courtesy of OPP Twitter)

A number of multi vehicle collisions have occurred on the 400-series expressways of southern Ontario this past week. These highways carry the most traffic volume at the highest speeds. Although weather forecasting can provide general information about conditions in a general area. However it is of minimal help for drivers who need more detailed information and about conditions in their immediate vicinity and where they are headed. Until vehicles of the future are equipped with weather and road surface “radar”, or technology that can warn drivers of the immediate conditions, weather related crashes will continue to evolve into dangerous, multi-vehicle pile-ups as unaware drivers crash into stopped vehicles from previous crashes.

Until vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure expand into wide-spread and reliable systems, there is current technology available that could be the stop-gap solution. That technology is automatic emergency braking (AEB). AEB technology can “see” things ahead that drivers cannot, and automatic brake application could prevent or reduce the numbers of multi-vehicle pile-ups in poor visibility and poor road surface conditions.

This is particularly so in the wintry environment of high speed expressways that carry a large percentage of heavy truck traffic. What is often overlooked in that heavy trucks pose a particular problem in winter storms on high speed expressways. Firstly the drivers of these trucks cannot stop as quickly as drivers of passenger cars.

Inability to bring a heavy truck to a full stop is not the only relevant issue. But in many instances the drivers of light vehicles will “zig and zag” between these trucks at close range. Truck drivers cannot be continually applying light braking for every light vehicle that encroaches into their space. This results in many instances where a heavy truck is too close to a light vehicle. When heavy braking is required instability from collision avoidance can occur. Even if the truck driver has successfully avoided the first and immediate threat that may not be the end of the proble. A chain reaction of other emergency motions by other drivers to avoid truck now increase the probability that one of those drivers will be unsuccessful and a collision occurs. What happens next is often a game of rolling the dice as to whether this becomes a multi-vehicle, fatal consequence.

New technology might help if it could produce a warning or even prevent the driver of a light vehicle from encroaching into the dangerous space around a heavy truck. Whether such technology is possible could depend on the consequences from such  a preventative action. Even if such a feature was feasible it would require some advanced logic and this is not likely to be available in a short time frame.

So AEB provides the most logical and quickest way to affect traffic in the immediate future. The question of its reliability in the vast number of unique collision scenarios must always be tested with adjustments made from that experience.

Highway 401 near Milton, February 13, 2019. How many of these multi-vehicle pile-ups could be avoided or reduced through AEB?

The installation of AEB on heavy trucks would be highly desirable. A heavy truck travelling a highway speed poses a large amount of kinetic energy that has the potential of causing a lot of damage and harm. So if that kinetic energy can be controlled at its earliest stage great benefits are possible. The results might be analogous to the safety benefits of early ride-down provided to occupants by seat-belts. Unknown to many, it is the early “catching” of an occupant’s body by a seat-belt, which is attached to the vehicle’s structure, that provides a great safety benefit to an occupant. So too with a heavy truck, where an early detection of a problem, resulting in a early reduction in kinetic energy through brake application,  could provide the safety benefit, not only to the truck driver but to any occupants of other vehicles that could be struck by that heavy truck.

Thus reliable AEB cannot come quickly enough as it is likely to provide a substantial safety benefit by reduced the frequency and severity of multi-vehicle crashes on high speed expressways.

More Car Fires But Still No Alarms

The latest unexplained car fire occurred today, February 13, 2019, in a parking lot of a mall in Toronto. Still, no one appears to be concerned.

This image was reportedly sent to CP24 News by Selvaratnam Prithiraj. Cause of the fire to the Chrysler 300 has not been provided.

Gorski Consulting has raised the warning flag on several occasions in the last couple of years regarding the apparent increase in unexplained vehicle fires. Some of these fires occur in minor collisions where fires should not be expected. In other instances, such, as the one above, the fires commence while the vehicle is simply parked and un-attended. Nothing has been said by either Transport Canada or the U.S. NHTSA as to whether there is an increase in the numbers of fires. But then no one in the news media appears to have asked.

Up to now these fires are occurring when a vehicle is unoccupied or the occupants had a chance to escape the vehicle. It is only a matter of time before that good fortune will end. Given the number of times persons become trapped and cannot exit a vehicle following a more serious collision there is a probability that persons could be burned alive before they could be rescued. That unpleasant possibility needs to be considered.

Red Hill Valley Parkway – The Plague of Secrecy

The meaning of road surface friction data or that a single report may have been hidden pales in comparison to the overall issue of secrecy that predominates road safety issues.

A local uproar erupted in Hamilton, Ontario when it was revealed that a 2013 technical report authored by Tradewinds Scientific may have been concealed from politicians and the public with respect to road surface testing that was conducted on the Lincoln Alexander and Red Hill Valley Parkways in that city. That report was recently “discovered” by the City’s new Director of Engineering.

The matter is significant because the friction data shows low levels of friction for the surface of the Red Hill Valley Parkway. A 2017 safety study by the local Hamilton Spectator newspaper showed higher numbers of collisions occurring on the Red Hill versus the Lincoln Alexander and there were a number private citizens that were also wondering about the safety of the Red Hill. In interviews by the Hamilton Spectator newspaper with the previous Director of Engineering there was no mention of the Tradewinds report and comments about the surface of the Red Hill and the Director was quoted as saying that the friction results were “inconclusive”. The City of Hamilton has conducted newer testing of the road surface friction but, to date, has refused to reveal that data. In totality it leaves many with the notion that proper disclosure has not been “seen to be done” as many citizens are of the impression that unreasonable secrecy is evident.

While this is not an inconsequential matter, it shows the narrowness of thought that is focused on this single issue, while failing to recognize the much more important, broader issue. There is a widespread existence of unneeded and inefficient secrecy in public transportation safety. There is a constant conflict between those wanting assurance that the public be made safe while travelling on public roadways versus the accountability of those responsible from maintaining that safety. Maintaining safety in a public transportation system is complex. There are many influences that require a juggling of fact-finding, reaction and prioritizing. In the end issues arise where the public’s safety is compromised while in many instances the causes those occurrences are complicated and difficult to unravel.  Inevitably someone does not perform perfectly and could be made accountable for their imperfection. Unfortunately, the results of these imperfect actions or in-actions lead to injuries and deaths. So the consequences are indeed quite serious. While a single impaired driver may be held accountable for a single collision, the public road administrator’s decisions can expose thousands or hundreds of thousands of the public to danger when their decisions are not what they should be. In the wake of this responsibility there is a large incentive to protect from being found at fault. Thus this is the incentive for developing a regime of secrecy where ever possible. A formal process of documenting, prioritizing and acting on safety problems has existed for many years in Ontario. To some degree, in the past,  this documentation has been accessible as it was administered centrally by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. However, in recent years that documentation has been allowed to take place on software developed by private firms. Those firms claim that the software is proprietary. Thus, a furthering of secrecy has evolved without the public’s awareness.

The remedy to date has been the civil courts. This has created further incentives toward secrecy. At present our system is dominated by lawyers on either side of a claim who spend large amounts of time and money to argue for one side of matter or another. Experts are paid by these these lawyers that further complicate the issue that needs resolution. When experts are paid by one side or another it is not difficult to appreciate that an incentive toward bias could develop. Yet there is a broad, blind eye to this obvious fact. At the top of the pyramid are the judges themselves who are counted on to provide an impartial assessment but whose decisions or the reasons for their decisions are poorly displayed to the public. The documentation of court proceedings by way of public video could expand the public’s access to the actions of the courts but that has never been implemented. In the end deceptions are common mechanisms that exist when a very small number of persons are given the responsibility of protecting the public while having the power to keep important issues hidden.

As matters unfold with the Red Hill Valley Parkway, further evidence may yet be revealed before the public’s expressed disapproval is diminished by the calling of an independent inquiry.  The reality is that the selection of an investigating entity does not guarantee a successful resolution. One does not need to look far to understand that the number of titles, the splendour of the robes or membership in elite circles does not guarantee that a just or unbiased investigation will be completed. While not without its drawbacks, the public’s participation through being informed of the investigation’s detailed actions and the public’s debate, remains the best mechanism for illuminating when an investigation becomes biased.

Red Hill Valley Parkway – Is The Friction Data Corrupt?

Road surface friction data at the junction between the Lincoln Alexander and the Red Hill Valley Parkway appears to be strange, at best. Before concluding anything there needs to be an explanation.

There has been much uproar over the revelation that a report of testing performed by Tradewinds Scientific  in 2013 on the surface of the Red Hill Valley Parkway in Hamilton seemed to have been hidden from the public. That issue may be resolved through some form of investigation. Meanwhile a review of the data contained in the report shows some peculiar results.

The main point deduced from the report is that the road friction values along the Red Hill Valley Parkway appear to be lower than those of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. The friction data of the Red Hill is also below the recommendations set by research conducted in the United Kingdom. But looking at the details leads to some questions about the peculiar results.

For example, the figure below is taken from the Tradewinds Scientific report and shows the values of friction obtained along the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. The data at the far right of the graph is just before it turns into the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

Along the bottom of the figure we can see the distance along which the testing is conducted. So the values go from “0” at the start of the testing to past “9000” metres. It is difficult to determine where the end of the testing is located because the authors have not placed a marker at the end of the graph as they did at the beginning. However one can count the tick marks past the “9000” marker and it would appear that the “10000 ” metre marker would exist at the very end of the graph. The format of the figure would imply  that the data approaches the “10000” or 10 kilometre mark as the Lincoln Alexander begins to be named the Red Hill Valley Parkway. So it makes sense to the viewer  that the authors truncated this figure at the point where the Lincoln Alexander transitions to the Red Hill. The green line represents the recommended value of “48” and the data is above the recommendation up to the “10000” location of the graph.

However, the next figure shows the data for the Red Hill Valley Parkway. Is there not something strange here?

This Red Hill data is just an extension of the Lincoln Alexander data. This conclusion must be drawn because of another figure (“Figure 2”) in the Tradewinds report which is reproduced below.

The caption for that figure reads that testing was performed along the Lincoln Alexander from “A to B” and then along the Red Hill from “B to C”. So the “B” notation is referring to the same location where the Lincoln Alexander testing ends and the Red Hill testing begins.

And this understanding is verified by how the distance is labelled in the figure for the Red Hill data. One can see that it starts at the “10000” marker and this is the same location where the previous graph ended. But look at the purple line that is supposed to show the data from the left wheel location in the left lane. Look back on the first figure and note that at the unmarked “10000” location the friction value was something around “55”. Then returning to the figure of the Red Hill data, at the “10000” marker, the friction shows a value of about “35”. In other words, there are two very different friction values shown for the same “10000” metre location.

One might say that there is a misunderstanding about where the Lincoln Alexander data in the first figure ends. Perhaps it ends at “9900” metres and not at “10000” metres. But even if that were the case, a drop in friction from about 55 to about 35 would have to occur in about 100 metres. Is it a coincidence that the friction values seem rather constant until the specific point where one figure transitions into  the other?

With respect to the right wheel path in the right lane, the figures depict this as as the blue line. Again, looking at the first figure for the Lincoln Alexander the data are all above the “48” recommendation. This seems to continue into the first few hundred metres shown for the Red Hill data. Then there is a sudden drop in about 200 metres from about “50” to about “32”.

The previous Director of Engineering, Mr.  Gary Moore, was quoted as indicating that these data were inconclusive. While it is possible that the Tradewinds data may contain some unexplained error, this data cannot be described as inconclusive without some technical basis for supporting that description. The data provide a strong indication that something very unusual existed at the point of transition between the Lincoln Alexander and the Red Hill data. The location of that transition needs to be examined in more detail to determine whether it reflects the actual location where the surface of the Lincoln Alexander terminated and the laying of the new surface for the Red Hill started.

Location where the Lincoln Alexander Parkway transitions into the Red Hill Valley Parkway in Hamilton, Ontario.

So when Mr. Moore referred to the Tradewinds data as inconclusive is that because he had a further basis to make that conclusion? It was reported in the news media that other friction testing was conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) but the report of that testing had not bee made public. So did the MTO testing contain results that disputed the Tradewinds results? Is  this why Mr. Moore referred to the data as inconclusive? We do not know. However these are some of the many details that need to be uncovered.

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