May 15, 2018
Mis-Information Continues To Be Spread With Respect to Tesla Auto-Pilot Crash in Utah
News media have reported that the Tesla that drove into the back of a stopped fire truck in South Jordan (Salt Lake City) Utah on Friday May 11, 2018 had the semi-autonomous Autopilot engaged. In fact this conclusion is based on the driver’s own statement to police. While it may prove to be true there are many instances where drivers may say all kinds of things in order to protect themselves. The best source of such a conclusion would be the Tesla’s event data recorder and not what the driver may have stated.
South Jordan police have been quoted as stating that the Tesla was travelling at 97 km/h when it slammed into the back of the stopped fire truck and that that the female driver of the Tesla only sustained a broken ankle. It has been reported that a Twitter comment by Tesla’s co-founder, Elon Musk, indicated “What’s actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60 mph and the driver only broke an ankle…an impact of that speed usually results in severe injury or death”.
This is precisely the point that Gorski Consulting made in our news item of May 14th, 2018, only we questioned the police conclusions. The photograph of the damage to the front end of the Telsa did not match what the police have concluded. The police conclusions would suggest that the Telsa sustained a change-in-velocity (Delta-V) of close to 100 km/h because the fire truck would act as a moveable barrier that would result in limited post-impact motion. Such as massive change-in-velocity is not demonstrated in the relatively small amount of dissipated energy exhibited in the visible amount of crush shown in the photograph of the Tesla.
If the fire truck was stopped then the only chance of matching the police conclusions would be if that fire truck was not in gear and was pushed forward on rolling wheels thus contributing to some of the energy loss from the collision by allowing some additional post-impact motion of both vehicles. But even that possibility remains highly unlikely as severe crush should still exist on the Tesla. Obviously, the situation could be more plausible if the fire truck was actually travelling at a substantial forward velocity when the impact occurred such that the closing speed was much less than what has been assumed.
May 14, 2018
Suspicious Facts Reported in Tesla Crash of South Jordan Utah
It has been reported that on Friday, May 11, 2018, a Tesla Model S sedan crashed into the back of stopped fire truck at a speed of 60 mph (100 km/h) in South Jordan Utah. The driver of the Tesla, or its semi-autonomous system, did not apply any braking prior to the impact and the driver only suffered a broken right ankle.
The above photo of the crashed Tesla was released by South Jordan police. This photo shows that crush to the vehicle was mainly above its bumper in a typical “under-ride” manner that would not be unexpected given the typical higher rear bumper of a large truck. The front wheels of the Tesla do not appear to have been displaced rearward and the A-pillars also appear to be in their original positions. All these facts support the conclusion that the Tesla’s crush does not exhibit the type of expected energy dissipation that would be comparable to a change-in-velocity (Delta-V) anywhere close to 60 mph (100 km/h).
Ever since the published research paper by Kenneth Campbell in 1974 comparing change-in-speed and vehicle crush there has been a lot of “crush measuring” in the field by various collision investigators/reconstructionists. In fact, computer reconstruction programs such as CRASH were developed for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the specific purpose of objectively estimating the severity of a crash through the measurement of vehicle crush. So those who are familiar with those procedures know that the stiffness of most light-duty vehicles is much less in the vertical zone above the bumper than it is a the bumper level. Thus the crush shown in the Tesla would be much less had it involved contact with its bumper where the stiff structure is located.
It is true that under-ride collisions such as that shown in the above Tesla photo result in an under-estimation of the speed loss because the impact force is not horizontal but there is a vertical component which tends to lift the taller struck vehicle (i.e. the fire truck) while pushing the striking vehicle into the pavement. Furthermore some speed will be lost from post-impact motion of the vehicles, yet it is unlikely that the post-impact travel distances would be substantial in that the fire truck would act like a massive, movable barrier due to the large difference in the masses of each vehicle. While these factors are known they cannot explain the very large difference in the visible crush and the reported speed loss of close to 60 mph.
The unusually large interest in this crash is due to the possibility that its auto-pilot mode may have been activated and therefore this could suggest that the system failed to apply braking when it would be expected to do so. The present information indicates that it is unknown at this time whether that system was indeed activated.
From a collision reconstruction viewpoint, the use of event data from downloading of data from a recorder is becoming increasing common such that many investigators and analysts are becoming exclusively dependent on such data when completing their conclusions about how a collision occurred. Whatever the eventual circumstances in the present collision, it demonstrates the importance of investigators/analysts knowing their physical evidence and being able to use that knowledge of the physical evidence to independently detect possible discrepancies that may exist in downloaded event data. This comment is not just with respect to the physical evidence visible in vehicle damage, but relates to all the evidence on the roadway and with respect to the expected performance of the human behind the wheel.
Recent court appearances in the Province of Ontario demonstrate that many courts appear oblivious the wide range of knowledge that a collision reconstructionist must have, and must evaluate in order to narrow possible causes to one or select few.
May 11, 2018
OPP Police Cruiser And ATV Collision in Lambton County – Nothing of Substance In Opening of Constable Sean Coughlan’s Trial
It is a controversial matter whenever Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is up against a police constable and the news media know that such a story is capable of bringing new readers/viewers in the shrinking news media market.
The story is that OPP Constable Sean Coughlan has been charged by the SIU with criminal negligence and perjury with respect to a collision that occurred on June 22, 2016 “on a Dawn-Euphemia road in the southeast corner of Lambton County”. Although several news agencies have reported this story no one has actually mentioned the specific roadway where the collision occurred. Also, there appeared to be no mention by the various news organizations that the collision occurred in the few days after its occurrence.
Reporting on the opening day of the trial provided minimal, objective information about what actually transpired. Evidently an ATV rider, Edward Labadie, 25, of Bothwell, Ontario might have been pursued by Constable Coughlan in his cruiser and the specifics of this may be revealed in later days of the trial. It would appear that Constable Coughlan’s version of the event will be that the ATV rider lost control of his vehicle of his own accord resulting in Labadie’s serious head injuries. The alternative view that will likely be posed by the SIU is that Constable Coughlan was somehow involved in causing the crash and that he later perjured himself in failing to report how the events actually unfolded. Is that what will be presented in the future days of the trial? Who knows. Whenever trial proceedings occur there is often a slow release of murky details that lead readers/viewers of news information to speculate and assume. The title of the news article coming from Neil Bowen of the Sarnia Observer Newspaper read “Father of injured ATV rider suggests OPP cruiser hit son’s vehicle” and the article quoted the father, Chad Tunks, as saying his son looked “beaten up” suggesting in the minds of readers that the injuries were related to the police doing the beating and not due to a collision. These are large accusations.
Mr. Tunks also reported seeing skid marks at the accident location suggesting that they were related to the police cruiser during the accident. Meanwhile the defense lawyer, Phillip Millar, told Tunks that those skid marks were created by police during testing following the collision. These facts would appear to be simple to prove or disprove. OPP continually conduct post-collision skid-testing at accident sites to determine the co-efficient of friction of a road surface. A simple photograph of the marks could very quickly confirm which interpretation is correct.
Not unexpectedly, there was information from witnesses who will claim that the cruiser was as close as one or two car lengths behind the ATV to as far apart as two minutes of driving time. Discrepancies like these could be explainable if the observations were made at different times along the progress of the incident. But too often the courts continue to attribute too much importance to the comments of such witnesses without recognizing that independent objective facts are needed to support such comments before they should be believed.
There was mention made of blood alcohol testing and the belief by police that Labadie had been drinking and was possibly impaired at the time of the crash because of slurred speech and an alcohol odour. The apparently damaging consequence to that interpretation is that the blood sample “showed a zero blood-alcohol level”. Even though the sample was taken about two-and-a-half hours after the accident the highest reading that could possibly exist from elimination rates would be about 45 milligrams as testified by forensic toxicologist Marie Elliot. So there is some explaining required as to how police could make the impairment conclusion. A person who sustains facial fractures that ultimately result in significant brain injury is likely to exhibit slurred speech yet such conclusions about impairment have been made on previous occasions without any apparent recognition of the paradox.
A point that appears disturbing is that it was Labadie’s father, Chad Tunks, who reported the incident to the SIU and therefore it would be believed that police themselves did not report the incident to the SIU. The reasons why this occurred may or may not be publicly revealed but the lack of reporting of incidents must remain a concern outside of this particular incident.
Otherwise it appears that the OPP have not distanced themselves from Constable Coughlan and, at face value, it would appear that they may be supporting his version of the incident. If so then it lays the framework for a conflict between the OPP and SIU which is more disturbing. Whether Constable Coughlan’s cruiser rear-ended the ATV, as suggested in opening information by Edward Labadie, should be a simple matter to prove or disprove but the details of the problem may become apparent as the trial continues. However the facts unfold it would appear that either the OPP or the SIU have a misunderstanding of the evidence.
Questionable Vehicle Fires That No One Is Willing To Question
In the past 10 days there have been a number of questionable reports of vehicle fires that remain unexplained.
In a CBC News article from Carp, Ontario, a community located near Ottawa, a body was found inside a vehicle “that caught fire” on May 2, 2018. The very limited information was that arson and criminal investigators were looking into the case.
In an incident on Maple Grove Road in Cambridge, Ontario, on May 3, 2018, a crash involving a transport truck resulted in the truck being “engulfed in flames moments after the collision”. The driver of a car that had collided with the truck was trapped in his vehicle was luckily extricated by fire crews but was in critical condition. It was not made known whether the injuries to the trapped car driver were related to the impact or to the subsequent fire. The obvious issue is that the trapped driver would have been burned to death and further information should have been revealed on the issue.
In a fatal collision on Oxford Township Road 3 on the eastern outskirts of Woodstock, Ontario, a 19-year-old male driver of a 2007 Ford Fusion was reportedly ejected in a head on crash and was died. However the second vehicle, a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro reportedly caught fire and its driver had to be pulled from the vehicle by a passerby. The point is that in major collisions such as these persons can become trapped and cannot be extricated without the help of emergency personnel. So even though this appeared to be a minor fire event it could have been deadly to that Camaro driver.
In another fire reported by the London Free Press on May 8, 2018, a Ford Freestyle van was reportedly parked on Dundas Street near Adelaide Street when it suddenly caught fire while its occupants were shopping. The comment in the story was that the cause of the fire was unknown. Again, what if the fire had occurred in other circumstances where the van was occupied or if restrained children were inside? Such an event could have resulted in very tragic consequences but little attention was paid to it.
In another incident reported on May 11, 2018, CP24 News in Toronto reported that three vehicles were involved in a fire outside a company office. The only comment from police was that the fire was “not believed to be suspicious”. So does that suggest that if the fire was caused by a deliberate act we should worry but because it may not have been deliberate we should move on with our lives? Certainly further information should have been pursed as to how this fire started when it was not suspicious.
In a CBC News article authored by Susan Burgess, thousands of 2008-209 Mercedes Benz Smartcars will be recalled as a result of an number of fires originating at an insulating mat. One of those fires was experienced by Valerie Hovinga Bisset of Elmira, Ontario. The CBC article claimed:
“While Hovinga Bisset reported her fire to Transport Canada, the department declined to inspect her car, yet concluded it was not the result of a safety defect.”
Our observations suggest that the incidence of vehicle fires, whether as the result of collisions or otherwise, appear to be on the increase without much attention being paid to the fact. Every vehicle fire whether it involves the injury of a person or not, should be documented as it could relate to an pattern that might involve similar vehicles. With the decline of formal journalism in the public domain there is a serious concern that investigative journalism is not being fully involved in examining such issues.
May 1, 2018
Humboldt Broncos – Saskatchewan Government Reportedly Will Hire Private Firm To Evaluate Safety of Intersection – Why?
Even before any findings have been released from the police investigation of the collision that resulted in 15 fatalities involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, the Saskatchewan government is apparently announcing that it will be hiring an un-named, private firm to conduct an audit of the safety of the intersection where the crash occurred.
In an unusual comment Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe was quoted as saying “We’re going to take a renewed interest in…looking at all of our intersections across the province to ensure that we have our rightaways clear and that we have the visibility that’s required”.
For one thing, what is a “rightaway”? We have heard of a “right-of-way” but the quoted word is unheard of. Furthermore, if the Premier is making this bold commitment at this time, why is he doing so before any results have been released from the police investigation? Does he already know what that investigation reveals? And if so what does it reveal with respect to the line of sight at the intersection? Did the line of sight conform with the Province’s policies or not? That is a simple question that should result in a simple answer. Is this why a private firm is required, because personnel in the employ of the Province of Saskatchewan cannot determine for themselves whether their own line-of-sight policies have been met?
When will the results of the police investigation be released and what will it say about the line-of-sight that was available? These matters should not be left to rest until this information is made publicly available.
April 15, 2018
Should Delays In Drug Charge Disclosures Trump Cases Involving Criminal Motor Vehicle Collisions?
The above title may seem confusing at first. However news media have emphasized the judicial condemnation of the delays in disclosure by the Prosecutor’s office in the Brampton, Ontario court. The Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment in the R. vs. Jordan case placed limits on the amount of delay in taking criminal charges through the courts and this includes the delays in the prosecution’s disclosure of evidence to the defense. Obviously, an accused should be provided with a disclosure of the case against them so that a proper defense of a charge can be prepared. So concerns over the delay of such disclosure are appropriate. But the emphasis of news reports has been only with respect to drug charges at the courthouse in Brampton, Ontario. So how are delays in disclosure treated at other courts in other criminal cases such as Dangerous Driving in motor vehicle collisions? We have first hand knowledge of the double standard that seems to exist.
In testimony recently given at the Welland, Ontario court with respect to a Dangerous Driving charge, Zygmunt M. Gorski attempted to explain his criticisms of the police investigation and the included lack of reasonable disclosure provided by the prosecution. Specifically, disclosure was not provided until the trial had already commenced. When disclosure was eventually provided a day or two after the start of the trial, I was required to review the documentation in an extremely short time of a couple days while also preparing a response report of 29 pages in length. This was at a time when I was also committed to prepare another report on another matter, at the same time frame, unknown that this delay in the criminal trial disclosure would unfold as it did.
The result was that the wording in my report was strongly critical and that wording might have been mellowed had I had an opportunity to review it, but that was not the case. Some adjectives could have been changed or deleted but the core of the criticisms would have remained. The bottom line is that the prosecutor focused on these words to suggest that I was biased toward the police and Justice Ramsey of the Superior Court of Justice agreed with that conclusion.
But the delay in the delivery of the disclosure was not the only matter that required criticism. It was clear from any objective analysis that the charged driver was exceeding the 50-km/h speed limit and travelling in the range of 80 km/h and I confirmed this in my analysis. However police investigators failed to conduct the full and proper analysis that would have confirmed that 80 km/h even though that objective evidence was available for them to use. Instead, police conducted a partial determination of the accused’s post-impact speed of slightly less than 80 km/h and then suggested to the court that the impact speed had to be much higher because of the obvious damage seen on the two vehicles. In my view this was a purposeful act to match the observations of an officer who claimed to have seen the accused’s vehicle travelling well above 150 km/h a few seconds before impact. This attempt to misinform the court was unethical. But there were other issues.
The police reconstructionist lost his measurements of the site and had to return a few days later when some of the crucial evidence was no longer available. This happening was attached in a short phrase in the officer’s copious notes indicating that he had to return to the site to take some additional measurements. At no time could one deduce from his notes that he actually lost all the measurements that he took. Furthermore he never disclosed that crucial post-impact tire marks that were needed to identify a post-impact rate of rotation and therefore confirm how the collision occurred were also lost yet he provided an opinion regarding that rate of rotation.
Furthermore, certain reports were submitted without any indication who authored the reports, without numbered pages or proper titles and certain figures were without references. At a time when I was pressed to prepare my report I had to guess whether the compilation of pages was one, single report authored by one (unknown) analyst or a product of 3 separate reports, also authored by who knows how many other authors. I referred to these reports as “sloppy” and I stand by that comment.
Furthermore, the police reconstructionist should have observed that a post-impact tire mark was a “yaw” mark indicative of a rotating tire that was created just after the impact. In his speed calculations he used a, locked-wheel-skid, deceleration value of 0.7 g over the length of that mark. This cannot be done even by amateur investigators let alone someone who reported that he obtained an ACTAR accreditation as an accident reconstructionist. After viewing the critical response in my original report he then changed that 0.7 g by dividing it by two. An action that would be viewed as remarkably incompetent or worse by anyone familiar with collision reconstruction.
So yes, my words were rightly critical both in my report and on the stand. It was never disclosed why the Judge determined that I was biased toward the police because I could never locate a written copy of his judgment. Did he not understand the technical calculations I performed that indicated that the speed of the accused’s vehicle was nowhere near 150 km/h? Did he not appreciate that you cannot determine the deceleration produced by a yaw mark by dividing the deceleration of a skid mark by two? Did he not recognize that disclosure of the prosecutor’s case was unacceptably late and affected my ability to respond and how I responded? Did he not understand that my role as an expert in these matters is to “wave a red flag” to signal to the court that there were obvious problems in this investigation? I will never know.
What I am left with is a suspicion with respect to the prosecution and the court’s unreasonable actions.
So I return to the issue of the courts’ concern over proper disclosure in drug-related offenses. Clearly the courts feel it is unreasonable to provide late disclosure in such cases as indicated by the Supreme Court of Canada Jordan decision. But why does that concern not translate over to cases of Dangerous Driving in motor vehicle collisions? Do drug dealers have more rights than dangerous drivers? Does that make any sense? If I complained about late disclosure in a drug case would I be deemed as a responsible citizen but because I complained in a Dangerous Driving case I am deemed to be biased? I have no control over how these matters unfold however I remain appalled by these contradictions and mis-representations of my actions.
April 13, 2018
0.02 Over The Limit Confirms Why Hart Family Perished Over Cliff – “Supper’s Waitin’ at Home And I Gotta Get To It”
After much investigation it perhaps was not intentional that Jennifer Hart purposely accelerated over the cliff of the West Coast Highway near Westport California March 26, 2018 and killed all eight members of her family including herself. The obvious reason was because her blood alcohol level was 0.02 mg above the 0.08 mg threshold that defines someone as legally impaired in California. So the case is closed. Bobby and his wife Vicki Lawrence would be proud.
Humboldt Broncos – Many Jump Onto Their Wagon
The above photo taken by Jason Warick of CBC news provides the first available view of the struck side of the Peterbilt road tractor that was involved in the Humboldt Broncos collision last week. There appears to be absolutely no crush to the front or left side of this truck that can be related to the disintegration of the front end of the bus. In fact, the lack of damage is so obvious that it leads to the likely conclusion that this portion of the truck combination was not directly struck and that the front of bus may have made initial contact somewhere to the rear of the road tractor. This fact could have been resolved had police allowed some basic photos to be released before speculation mounted. The problem occurs repeatedly when officials insist on keeping almost every fact about major events like these secret while blaming the public and news media for jumping to conclusions.
The fact still remains, why does the front of the Broncos bus appear to have disintegrated? Even if it becomes revealed that an engine control module on the truck was not equipped with an event data recorder, or even if that capability was shut off, as it often is, a speed analysis can still be conducted in the conventional way of a momentum analysis. It can be difficult to judge the distance that the truck travelled from impact to rest however the distance visible in the post-impact photos does not suggest an extreme distance and therefore it does not suggest that the truck was travelling at an extreme speed at the time of impact with respect to the reported 100 km/h posted maximum speed. And we still do not know about what decelerations might have occurred before the truck reached the impact. But the combined speeds of the truck and bus will need to be known to further evaluate why the bus structure disintegrated. We do not agree that the public should stop speculating. Speculation is the fire that burns the official’s butts and pressures them toward providing the objective information that might otherwise be left unreported.
Surprisingly there has actually been some beneficial questioning and analysis performed by some news agencies that rarely exists. Several news agencies have now focused on the issue of the blockage created by the trees at the south-east quadrant of the intersection and they have also raised awareness to the six persons who died at this intersection in a collision in 1997. It has been reported that both roadways were signed with maximum speeds of 100 km/h. At that speed a vehicle travels 27.8 metres every second or just over 83 metres in 3 seconds. It could be a simple process of starting from the intersection of the two roads move backwards 83 metres along each road and then make an observation whether a person standing at that location on the one road can see a person standing at that location on the other road. If the trees create a blockage of that line of sight then we suggest there is a problem. Even with a braking system that is fully functional, a truck can generally not attain a deceleration rate greater than 0.6 g during maximum braking. Thus the truck or bus could need almost 50 metres of maximum braking in order to come to stop, without including the usual delay of 0.5 seconds or more that is needed for the truck/bus to begin braking after the brake pedal is applied. If we add a 1.0 second perception-response delay (27.8 metres) to that 50 metres we already have a minimum distance of almost 78 metres to bring a truck or bus to a stop even in the most favourable scenarios. So where is the edge of the trees? Someone who lives near the site or any news reporter could easily measure the edge of the trees with respect to the perpendicular location of each roadway centre-line. But even this basic information is not available.
Despite not having any reasonable site measurements we have conducted an analysis of the above scenario using the general dimensions available from the Google Maps view of the site. We have taken the aerial view shown in our news posting of April 8th, 2018 and we have added the analysis as shown in the view below. Since no site measurements are available we simply used the Google measurement tool to obtain the distance from the centre of the intersection to the driveway of the residence south of the intersection and found that to be about 78 metres. This 78 metres is shorter than the 83 metres needed for a 3-second pre-impact observation time discussed above. Using a “circle” tool we created two circles with a diameter of 78 metres and placed their edges at the centre of the intersection. Therefore the opposing edge of each circle indicates a location 78 metres along each roadway. From this 78-metre-location we then drew a diagonal line between these two 78-metre points (in bright pink below) to show what the line of sight would be from this location. Clearly one can see that the actual line of sight is nowhere close to what it should be. The grouping trees is clearly blocking that line of sight from just 78 metres.
While this may be viewed as speculation by some it is necessary to turn on the heat to investigators and officials to make sure that these important questions are not held back from public knowledge. If persons do not want to see speculation then they need to make important data publicly available so that properly detailed analyses can be conducted by independent agencies. This does not mean that investigators simply report their conclusions and provide no basis for their conclusions in terms of verifiable data.
UPDATE: April 19, 2018; 1420 Hours
Further to the visibility triangle analysis noted above, it should be noted that differing policies exist in different jurisdictions as to what visibility triangle is deemed acceptable. For example in the Province of Ontario, for stop-sign-controlled intersections, it has been historically accepted that sufficient visibility must be provided to the driver on a main road (i.e. the Broncos bus driver) to provide an opportunity to avoid a collision in the event that a vehicle on the minor road (i.e. the truck) disobeys the stop sign. Under that condition the vehicle on the minor road is assumed to travelling at an average of 30 km/h (8.33 metres per second) for the 3 seconds prior to the potential point of impact. Thus, in determining the proper triangle the vehicle on the minor road is placed 25 metres back from the potential point of impact, or more precisely, 25 metres back perpendicular to the travel path of the driver on the main road.
Next, the vehicle on the main road is positioned 3 seconds back based on the design speed of the roadway. The Design Speed is usually 10 to 20 km/h faster than the posted Maximum Speed of the roadway. So if Highway 35 had a posted Maximum Speed of 100 km/h then the highway’s design speed would be at least 110 km/h, or 35.5 metres per second. So the vehicle on the main road (i.e. the Broncos bus) would need to be placed 91.7 back from the point of impact.
So the more likely test of the line of sight would be with the truck placed at 25 metres from the path of the bus and the bus would be placed about 92 metres from the path of the truck and then we would assess whether the drivers could see each other’s vehicles without the view being blocked by the trees.
The problem with the 30 km/h speed assumption on the secondary road is that it becomes more dangerous when the posted Maximum Speeds are higher such as what reportedly existed at the Humboldt Broncos site. If Highway 335 had a posted Maximum Speed of just 70 km/h then the assumption that vehicles might be travelling a 30 km/h is less problematic because the actual speed of vehicles might be closer to that assumed speed even though they would likely be travelling 70, 80 or even 90 km/h. The problem is that when Highway 335 is posted at 100 km/h it is more likely that the approach speeds could be 100, 110, 120, or even much higher considering the likely low traffic volumes. So now the assumption of an approach speed of just 30 km/h diverges much more from reality. Once the six persons where killed in the 1997 crash investigators and roadway maintenance personnel should have focused on this danger and considered whether changes to the visibility triangle were needed. Certainly the posted Maximum Speed on Highway 335 could have been reduced but common sense tells us that, when there is little chance of being caught by police, and given the low traffic volumes, many drivers would be likely to disobey the posted Maximum Speed regardless of whether it was lowered.
There are many specific points of evidence that need to be revealed before a definitive evaluation can be made. The RCMP just completed an update to their investigation on the afternoon of today, April 19, 2018 but that was woefully missing any useful information. The police spokesperson confirmed that the engine control modules from both vehicles were secured but other than that, no useful information was provided.
April 8, 2018
Humboldt Broncos Crash Site Questions Need To Be Answered
Important questions surrounding the site where at least 15 persons perished in a bus crash in central Saskatchewan need to be answered now before focus is turned away from this tragedy.
It is now known internationally that a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team came into collision with a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Saskatchewan Highways 35 and 335 approximately 30 kilometres north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan on April 6, 2018. Of the 29 persons on-board the bus 15 have now been officially counted as deceased and the rest have been injured. The truck driver was reportedly uninjured.
While the families, friends and even strangers are shocked by the magnitude of this tragedy, focus has to be placed on the objective facts of how and why this occurred and essentially nothing of substance has been revealed. Even the general layout of the crash scene was not provided in any photos except for closer views of the two vehicles at their rest positions.
Progressively it became clear that the two vehicles were involved in a crash at the intersection of two highways, Saskatchewan Highways 35 and 335. Study of the vehicle final rest positions indicates that the truck travelled further from the intersection than the bus and given the truck’s rest position the most likely scenario is that it was westbound on Highway 335 and passed through the stop sign for its direction of travel. Similarly, the most probable travel direction for the bus would be northbound on Highway 35 and this would be consistent with its reported travel destination of Nipawin where a hockey was to take place that evening.
The Google Maps view below shows a general view of the scenario as presently believed to be accurate according to Gorski Consulting analysis.
If these facts are accurate then one must study the grouping of trees and brush on the south-east quadrant of the intersection to determine whether their blockage of the line of sight was inappropriate. Generally, this appropriateness is defined by establishing a “visibility triangle” created by the expected approach speeds of the vehicles and ensuring that the vegetation is cut back within the defined triangle. This issue may be discussed at another time.
What raises some questions is what has been found from a Google Maps view of the site shown in May of 2013.
Shown below is a Google Maps Street View image looking south-east of the intersection at an area of the east roadside, just south of the intersection. Two facts become apparent.
Number one, note that there is a flashing beacon attached to the post which holds the stop sign in the foreground. Such flashing beacons do not exist at every intersection. They become installed because someone has made a decision the traffic situation required the installation of this beacon. We ask readers to consider what traffic situations would have to exist that the installation of this beacon was required?
Number two, note in the background of the above photo that there is a grouping of white crosses erected on the east roadside of Highway 35. The image below provides a better view of those crosses.
Our question is: Why do these crosses exist? What is typically implied by the erection of such crosses?
We will not provide any further comment at this time.
UPDATE: April 8, 2018; 1740 Hours
It has taken us aback as there was actually an analytical media article provided by the National Post newspaper “Staff” with photos of the site attributed to Jonathan Hayward of the Canadian Press posted earlier this afternoon that provided similar comments about the findings at the intersection as we posted here. While sarcasm seems inappropriate in the wake of this terrible tragedy it is all we can muster when we observe the lack of inquiry into how this collision occurred and why it occurred.
The National Post filled in some blanks that we could not fill with respect to the crosses at the southeast quadrant of the intersection. The National Post indicated that the crosses related to the deaths of 6 persons in 1997.
The National Post article focused readers attention to the grouping of trees at the southeast quadrant and referred to the “limiting of visibility on both approaches to the intersection”.
The National Post article also focused its readers to the flashing beacons above the stop signs while also not commenting further.
What we are also impressed about is the National Post staff actually focused it readers on a troubling fact that we also observed but had not yet mentioned. The front of the bus was essentially “obliterated”, the term used by the Staff. What an incredible observation from journalists who are not experts in crash reconstruction. Furthermore this “Staff” also showed a closer view of the front end of the truck demonstrating that there was almost no crush at its front end and the driver was reportedly not physically injured. These are incredible observations that are educational to the National Post’s readers and we are amazed that this was actually posted.
Now, further about this issue of structural integrity that the National Post introduced. When two vehicles collide the force between them is shared. This is a re-phrasing of Newton’s 2nd law of motion. Those shared forces are equal and opposite. So the impact force that the truck experienced is also the impact force that the bus experienced. Does something not look right here? Look at the photos of the damage to the front end of the bus and look at the front end of the truck. The front end of the truck looks essentially undamaged, while the bus front end has been obliterated. Does that make any sense? Would you like to be the occupant of the vehicle that became obliterated? So where are the questions from the rest of the world, other than the National Post. Why is only one, single, news entity on this planet was able to form these important observations?
As we indicated earlier, there are important questions that need to be answered in this terrible crash. And there have been numerous important questions that needed to be answered in many previous incidents that we have tried to illuminate many times before, but never quite as horrific as in the present case. While we spill our sorrow can we also not act to undercover why these innocent persons had to die? Is that too much to ask of all of us?
Bus structures have been failing on numerous occasions without anyone saying a word of concern. Our failure to act on those previous occasions may well have contributed to the present tragedy.
But we need more facts. And we should demand more facts. We need to know how much of the damage seen on the bus is related to emergency personnel work to free and triage the occupants. But this stone must not be left unturned.
Thank you National Post Staff for being the only ones to turn on a light in this very dark room.
April 7, 2018
At Least 14 Fatalities in Bus Collision in Central Saskatchewan
14 persons are officially reported to have died in a collision between a bus carrying local hockey players and a truck. The collision reportedly occurred some time after 1700 hours on Friday, April 6, 2018. The crash occurred on Highway 35 approximately 30 kilometres north of Tisdale Saskatchewan. Only this general information is available at this time.
As expected there have been a number of emotional pronouncements from investigative agencies, family and various political figures. Yet it is these emotional reactions that distract from the very important focus of obtaining objective information about how and why this tragedy occurred. In the early hours and days of such an investigation the causes become scattered much like mice scattering about so as not to be caught. The result is often that the focus of the news media is upon these emotional reactions and the causes are never revealed. This becomes a double tragedy.
April 5, 2018
The Cause of a Collision is Not the Same As What Caused a Death
The Hamilton Spectator Newspaper quoted the Hamilton Police Reconstruction Unit when they indicated that the cause of the collision which killed Mohammed Deeb on Lawrence Road in Hamilton, Ontario on March 31, 2018 was a combination of speed, wet roads and drug impairment. There can be a great many half-truths to such reported facts.
A single photo accompanied the Hamilton Spectator article, showing the front end of the Deeb Nissan Altima located against the front end of a Hamilton Transit bus. As typical the actual photographic details were of limited detail however the photo revealed some important facts about the incident that typical readers would not be aware of.
The fact that the Nissan was pressed close to the front end of the bus indicated that this Nissan experienced the vast majority of its change in speed from the impact itself rather than other factors such as sliding to a final rest position. Note that the large mass of the transit bus would negate any change in its velocity as a result of the impact with the small Nissan. This collision was close to the typical barrier impact conducted by safety researchers at government agencies (NHTSA, Transport Canada) and large private agencies (Highway Loss Data Institute). Results of such crash tests report on the severity of the tests and a variety of sensed data from the involved crash dummies. From this it is possible to determine the likelihood of various injuries. Similarly, government agencies (NHTSA, Transport Canada) have been involved in decades of data gathering from real-life collisions where injuries of real-life occupants are also documented along with their associated collision severity.
The bottom line is that a lot can be known about what types of injuries a vehicle occupant should have sustained in a certain collision severity. Thus by looking at the photograph of the Nissan we can expect a certain level of injury especially when that collision does not involve complex dynamics and is similar to a barrier impact.
A lot can be determined from examining the extent of vehicle crush on the Nissan’s front end and this crush is displayed reasonably well in the newspaper’s photo. Furthermore, the rearward displacement of roof pillars and front wheels also provides an indicator of the extent of crush even when that crush has not been measured. In the present case there is no rearward displacement of the roof (A) pillars and there is little evidence of rearward displacement of the front wheels in their wheel-wells. The bottom line is that this collision, although relatively severe, should not have resulted in fatal injuries to its driver. Even if the driver was not wearing a seat-belt, and that important fact was not disclosed, a variety of supplemental safety devices within the vehicle (such as air bags) would be of substantial benefit to the driver in this type of collision.
Furthermore this collision should not have produced any measureable structural intrusion into where the driver was seated and this is a critical factor in considering what injuries should have been sustained.
Furthermore, the extent of injury to the other occupants of a vehicle was also an indicator of the collision severity. The Hamilton Spectator newspaper reported that three other occupants of the Nissan sustained non-life-threatening injuries. For the most part, these three persons should have sustained a similar collision severity as the deceased driver. While there are differences in expected injury due to occupant location these differences are not so large that they would result is such large differences in reported injury severity.
Thus there is a lack of clarification in the story that exists in many similar such incidents and keeps the public from recognizing that something happened that should not have happened. Just because a collision was caused by certain factors does is not the same as saying that those factors caused a person’s death. These are two different things. While speed, wet roads and drugs may have been dominant factors in causing the loss of control of the Nissan they were unlikely to be the dominant factors that led to the driver’s death. Other, unknown, and unidentified factors led to the driver’s death and this should have been explained and pursued further.
It is often not the fault of news media such as the Hamilton Spectator for this lack of information as many news agencies are suffering from a lack of funds to conduct proper investigative journalism. The blame must rest largely on the police agencies that decide what information will be released to those news media. Police Reconstruction units and the Reconstructionists who work for them have an obligation to properly inform the public on issues of public safety. This includes all factors that relate to the public’s safety. These Recontructionists must possess sufficient training so that they can objectively document and identify crucial evidence. When someone dies in a collision under questionable circumstances it is unethical for any right-minded person to hold back crucial information about how and why that fatality occurred especially if this holding back of information could lead to the death of a future, innocent party.
April 3, 2018
Clarke Road Russian Roulette Almost Claims Its First Victim
While the official news media have not mentioned it, a serious, head-on collision occurred on Clarke Road north of Fanshawe Park Road between the two curves of the S-curve over the weekend. This is the location where Gorski Consulting has been documenting evidence of loss-of-control collisions since 2009. We had just completed uploading an article on this Gorski Consulting website discussing the fact that 96% of loss-control events involving a passage through an opposing lane are never documented in police records. We also indicated that this was a game of Russian Roulette since, up to that point, there has never been a head-on collision with southbound vehicles that keep crossing into the northbound lane of Clarke Road. Well, with the latest collision, this represents the first time that the game of Russian Roulette has met a victim.
The existence of fresh gouges in the pavement of the northbound lane, as shown below, is a bad omen as such evidence is typically found at fatal head-on collisions.
The fact that oil and battery acid were thrown on the pavement at the gouges indicates the extent of frontal damage that was done to the impacting vehicles. The concentration of vehicle debris lying next to the point of impact indicated that the involved vehicles were a Ford and a Toyota and that they were light-duty vehicles (i.e. passenger cars, SUVs, Pick-up trucks or vans).
The seriousness of the possible consequences can be appreciated when we examine the long distance that the southbound vehicle travelled after the impact and therefore the high speed of the southbound vehicle that crossed over the roadway centre-line.
The photo below shows a northward view toward the area of impact and one can see a dark trail of fluid on the east shoulder and driveway in the foreground indicating the path of the southbound vehicle after it left the impact. Some additional tire marks located on the grass of the east roadside may be related to the travel of a third vehicle but it cannot be established at this time whether those marks are related to the present collision.
This northward view, looking toward the area of impact, shows a dark fluid trail leaving the impact and travelling toward the camera. This is the path of the southbound vehicle after the impact.
In the photo below we have swung the camera around 180 degrees to show the dark fluid trail indicating the path of the southbound vehicle between our parked car and the utility pole in the background.
By swinging the camera around 180 degrees to look southward, one can see the dark trail of the fluid as it passes between our parked car and the utility pole in the background.
The photo below shows the fluid stain, looking north, from the approximate location of the utility pole. Just looking that the distance toward the area of impact in the background one should appreciate that the southbound vehicle is travelling at a substantial speed even after the impact occurred.
This view looking north from the utility pole clearly shows the path of the dark fluid stain caused by the southbound vehicle.
The photo below shows how the fluid trail changes direction slightly near the utility pole. There was a slight impact of the pole and this could be why we see a change in the direction of the southbound vehicle. One can see some broken chips of red lens on the ground in the foreground indicating the rear corner of the vehicle may have made the contact with the pole.
This view looking northward shows a slight change in direction of the fluid trail near the utility pole likely caused by a glancing blow to the pole.
The photo below shows a close-up view of the red lens material and horizontal scrapes to the wood confirming that the southbound vehicle made contact with the pole.
In the photo below we see the northward view of the fluid trail travelling past the pole and toward the camera which is positioned near the south property line near a fence and bushes.
View looking north from a distance south of the utility pole showing the fluid trail coming toward the camera near a fence and bushes at the property line to the City of London water reservoir.
The photo below shows the location at the fence and bushes of the south property line where the southbound vehicle collided and finally came to rest. Dual wheel truck tire impressions in the grass suggest the vehicle was towed from this location.
View, looking south, toward the fence and bushes at the property line to the City of London water reservoir. The southbound vehicle crashed into the fence and bushes where it finally came to rest.
The photo below shows where the fluid stain terminates at the gap in the bushes of the property line where contact was made.
As a final note we can return to north curve that the southbound vehicle passed through before it crossed the centre-line. In the foreground of the photo below we can see the end of a thin dark tire mark to the right (west) of the centre-line which could signify the side-slipping of a southbound vehicle. However this tire mark cannot be attributed to the collision events at this time.
View, looking south, from the north curve where a thin dark tire mark can be seen to the right of the centre-line. Such markings can indicate a sideslip but it is not known if this mark is related to the collision event.
In summary, we had just completed an article entitled “Historical Patterns of Loss-Of-Control Events At Specific Road Locations” in which we indicated that 26 southbound vehicles had crossed, out-of-control, over the roadway centre-line between the two curves of the S-curve and that it was lucky that none of these events resulted in a head-on collision. We wondered why this occurred and suggested that perhaps these events were occurring at night-time when there was little traffic and thus there was less opportunity for inter-vehicle contact. However we also indicated that this was a game of Russian Roulette in that, eventually, luck will even out and a serious head-on collision would likely occur. It is a coincidence that, just after uploading this article, we documented the first instance, in 8 years of study, where a serious head-on collision occurred involving a high-speed southbound vehicle exiting onto the east roadside.
If one looks at some of the collisions documented in our article it is revealing how some of the incidents are so similar to the present case. The only difference was that in this case there was a northbound vehicle in the location where the southbound vehicle slid into the northbound lane. We would not be surprised to find a police report describing the present case and the investigating officer noting that “speed was a factor” and therefore nothing further needed to be noted. This officer would have no knowledge of the history of the site and would be unaware of the many unreported collisions that occurred there in the same manner as the one he/she was currently documenting. This is how investigations have occurred in the several decades of the past.
We have recently provided testimony at several trials where the opposing lawyers has tried to suggest that our involvement in roadway safety issues goes beyond our area of expertise because of a ruling that was made in an Ontario Court of Appeal case ( Johnson v. Town of Milton, 2008). That Court of Appeal ruling was difficult to reconcile for many reasons. For one, the Court of Appeal simply had no knowledge of our background in roadway safety issues. Why it would make a ruling without that knowledge is difficult to comprehend. The Court of Appeal also separated the role of “Accident Reconstruction” into separate compartments such that roadway assessment was one, speed calculation was another, driver perception was another, and so on. It deemed that an investigator who conducted an assessment of roadway issues, speed and driver perceptions was being an “expert generalist” who was trying to present expert testimony on too many issues. Incredibly, that same Court of Appeal would see nothing wrong with a police officer, even a reconstructionist, writing a report and claiming that a collision was caused by high speed and nothing else. It would seem obvious that, by stating the cause was due to high speed , the officer also had to rule out the possibility that the collision was due to a roadway safety issue. But how could the officer rule out the roadway without having some knowledge, training or experience with what is a roadway safety problem? Yet, clearly, that officer has to make such a conclusion at every collision he/she investigates. Is that police officer now an “expert generalist”?
In the court’s eyes is it OK for the police reconstructionist to say there was no roadway safety problem and therefore he/she is not trying to be an “expert generalist” as long as the officer was not stating that a roadway problem existed? But if that same officer then says, yes, there was a roadway safety problem, does the court now turn around and claim that the officer is trying to be an “expert generalist”? Does that make any logical sense? Clearly there are numerous investigations that have to be made which must include the three primary and general factors as described in the Haddon Matrix: The Human, The Vehicle, and The Environment. That has to be how reconstruction of a collision must occur. When the courts try to stop evidence from being entered as testimony regarding possible roadway safety issues they create a bias that is both illogical and dangerous to the general public. Roadway safety issues that are hidden from discussion and are not revealed are dangerous to all of us. In our 37 years of collision analysis we have known that to be true and we have high-lighted these problems whenever our objective analysis revealed it was so.
The analysis and findings we have provided from the research at the Clarke Road site demonstrates just how often roadway safety issues can be hidden and the process by which they remain hidden. Yet efforts continue to prevent this evidence from being made public.
April 2, 2018
Historical Patterns of Loss-Of-Control Events At Specific Road Locations
Further to our earlier news post of March 25, 2018, where we reported that 96% of loss-of-control vehicles travelling southbound through the S-curve of Clarke Road in London are not documented, we have now finished a detailed article discussing the research and its findings. This article has now been uploaded to the Articles page of this website. As the research method is unique it also provides evidence about the quality of officially reported collision data that has never been revealed by traditional methods. We encourage readers to visit the Articles page and review these compelling findings.
March 30, 2018
Speculation Is Typical As Eight-Member Hart Family Perishes Over West Coast Cliff
Eight members of the Hart family shown in the above photo were reported killed when their vehicle travelled off the Pacific Coast Highway near Westport California.
We should come to accept that speculation will always exist, in one form or another, in the thoughts of many persons when objective facts about a tragedy are not available. This is the case when a SUV was reportedly “discovered” at the bottom of a 30 metre cliff of the Pacific West Coast highway just north of Westport, California on Monday, March 26, 2018. The news reports would suggest that 5 members of the eight-member Hart family were found with the vehicle while police were still looking for the remains of the other three.
Reports indicate that the Hart family was uncommon. Led by two, 39-year-old women who adopted six children. Some described them in glowing terms while others did not. The news media report that a children’s agency was in the process of investigating the possible mistreatment of the children when the collision occurred. The obvious speculation is that the collision was caused on purpose as some kind of mass suicide. Yet, up to this point, police have reported nothing unusual which would suggest a purposeful act. Regardless, the damage has been done.
Matters like these are not uncommon, not just in collisions but in all walks of life. If not for the bazaar behaviour of an American president we would not have been exposed to the term “fake news” nor would we have begun to think about its meaning. We are truly a unique species in that we can create our own reality and make ourselves believe things that have no rational basis. While many of us profess to be non-religious, we follow a religious-like belief system that is made up of certain superior beings with titles and robes and pagentry in whom we have total faith. Whether these be news representatives whom we have come to trust, police who can always be trusted, or doctors or priests and so on. All with titles and positions whom we have come to believe and trust not because of the facts they tell us, but solely because of who they are. That is not a wise or healthy approach.
In the analysis of motor vehicle collisions we are constantly provided with the observations of witnesses. Some are very reliable and truthful, and some are not. The problem is that, without proper confirmation by objective analysis, we have no idea which witness is reporting reliable information and which is giving us a fairy tale, or whether the truth lies somewhere in-between. It is the meticulous process of identifying and gathering objective evidence that gives us the opportunity to be “quite sure” that the witness information is reliable.
Unfortunately, those gatherers and identifiers of objective evidence are not of equal capability, training and experience and here lies a second quagmire. There are many who like to be looked upon as capable, well-trained and experienced and who gather many credentials, much like the titles, robes and pagentry noted above, so that this smoke and mirrors will prevent a properly detailed study of what they have gathered and identified. Unfortunately, our experience is such that we cannot accept what previous investigators or analysts have reported on face value simply because of the many times that those investigators and analysts have provided unreliable information. In 37 years of analysis and through the review of the actions of a large number of witnesses, investigators and analysts, we have come to this conclusion not because of our bias but because our experience demonstrates this.
Going back to the incident of the Hart family’s tragedy, all we have of (seemingly) objective information is that the family perished due to their vehicle’s fall from the highway cliff. We cannot be certain of even this one item since any kind of purposeful action by others could make this tragedy seem like an accident when it was not. So a close study of the evidence such as the injuries sustained by each occupant would be needed along with evidence inside the vehicle. Obviously a downloading of data from the vehicle’s event data recorder (“black box”) might provide useful information If it is interpreted properly.
The matter of the reported lack of tire marks must also be viewed with caution as many investigators simply do not have enough experience in using proper procedures or understanding what it is they should be looking for because they simply lack the experience. Identification and recognition of such evidence does not become a reliable skill just over a matter of a couple of years or through the study of a few short courses. At Gorski Consulting we continue to compile photographic documentation of various tire marks so that we can become better identifiers and interpreters of that evidence.This is no different than any other evidence that is cataloged so that it can be used to uncover the truth in future cases.
What is obvious at the collision site is that the Pacific Coast Highway in this region is accompanied by many cliffs and the border between the cliffs and roadway are not protected by guardrails or other devices that would limit the opportunity for vehicles to accidentally wander into danger. That may not mean anything in the details of this specific case however any investigator might keep that in the back of their mind while not causing one to develop tunnel vision.
In all, the presence of speculation in this incident is not uncommon. While many attack those who engage in it, our view is that speculation develops when there has been insufficient objective information disclosed about an event. Those who formulate those attacks often fail to ask why more objective information is not revealed as, in so many previous incidents, the insistence on maintaining secrecy is the ultimate problem.
March 25, 2018
Ninety-Six Percent of Loss-Of-Control Vehicles That Slide Through An Opposing Lane Are Never Documented In Police Records
The latest findings from an eight-year-long research study conducted by Gorski Consulting has revealed that 96% of vehicles that go out of control and slide through the opposing lane while travelling around the curve of an 80 km/h highway are never documented in any police data. While these results may appear astounding they are fully supported by actual photographic evidence documented from detailed examinations of the test site where the research has been conducted.
These disturbing results may be related to the specific site where the research is being conducted and it may be questionable how these extreme results may be generalized to other sites. Yet, without anyone conducting research of a similarly detailed nature the specific extent of the problem has to raise some alarms.
The site of the research is located on Clarke Road north of Fanshawe Park Road and Gorski Consulting has reported many previous findings on this website. One of the findings reported in April of 2017 indicated that over 80% of loss-of-control collisions and incidents were not found in the police data of the London City Police Service. That may not be as alarming because one could imagine that there could be many, minor, loss-of-control incidents in the Gorski data that may not warrant reporting. Many of these would not involve the crossing of a centre-line into opposing traffic. While that comment may be partially true, it fails to recognize that many significant incidents were documented in the Gorski data that should have been reported to police but were not.
This latest data is even more compelling because it only looks at the specific incidents where the loss-of-control vehicle was out of control when it crossed through the opposing lane. Twenty-six incidents or such occurrences were documented and only one of these was documented in police records which leads to the 96% value that has been indicated. Five of the most current cases have not yet been verified with police data however examination of the physical evidence indicates that these five vehicles left the collision site without evidence of police involvement.
It is possible that many of these loss-of-control incidents may be occurring at night-time when there are few vehicles travelling through the site and this could be why there have not been any vehicle-to-vehicle impacts in the 26 incidents. While that is a possibility it remains unknown, and cannot be known, without further resources that can monitor the site more closely during night-time hours.
This research raises the question whether police, researchers and government policy-makers are relying on an accurate data-set that allows for a proper understanding of the vehicular loss-of-control problem on our highways.
March 24, 2018
Limited Truck Acceleration & Maximum Speed – A Dangerous Game of Russian Roulette
There are many policy-makers who trust their data and researchers to conclude that something is a good idea. One such good idea was the limiting of truck speeds in Ontario to just over 100 km/h.
That seemed fine because these trucks could be used as road blocks to slow down traffic, particularly on expressways such as Highway 401. There would be less need to send police onto this busy expressway as many serious rear-end impacts have occurred when police make a traffic stop. The fact that speeders might run into the back of a slow truck would also be OK because it would be the speeder who would lose their life or limb and not the slow trucker – or so could be the logic. The additional chaos that might be created as large differences in vehicle speeds became created would be difficult to prove and there would be no need generated to do something about it. Certainly police reports would not high-light the fact that this chaos would exist and this would not reach the traffic data or the analysts who advice the policy-makers. The only fact that would exist is that major rear-end collisions would keep occurring and this could be blamed on irresponsible drivers who were distracted. Truck drivers would be easy targets because they are the ones who would have the greatest difficulty in slowing down when traffic chaos exists.
Certainly the trucker is at fault in many instances but is that the only factor? As an analogy, for many early years there were many machines that cut or crushed material that were fed by an operator who would push the material onto some kind of conveyor belt which would drag the material into the compartment where the cutting and crushing would occur. The obvious advisement to those machine operators was “don’t stick your hand into the crushing/cutting compartment!”. Well, yes, that would seem to be sage advice. But in the environment where the worker is conducting this feeding process repeatedly over many days and months something unintended eventually happens. The worker reaches too far, the worker’s clothing gets caught on a conveyor belt… and so on. And for many years it was deemed to be a worker’s fault. Not paying enough attention. Not until later were various safety devices installed to prevent workers from being dragged into cutting and crushing devices and these accidents were greatly diminished. Is there not a parallel here with the traffic scenario?
Yes, drivers become drowsy and inattentive when subjected to a long time of the mundane task of driving, but is there no way of creating safeguards, much like the crushing/cutting scenario, where persons who make simple mistakes do not have to pay for them with their lives? Limiting truck speeds can be dangerous in some situations where truck drivers get into a situation that requires an immediate and drastic evasive action to avoid disaster. When we take away that driver’s ability to take that evasive action is that no different than removing the safeguards that keep the non-attentive machine operator from being cut or crushed to death? Also, when a heavy truck is involved in a collision it is not always the drowsy truck driver who pays the price, it could be many other innocent drivers in that truck’s vicinity.
March 23, 2018
Uber Pedestrian Fatality In Tempe Arizona – An Opportunity But Also A Responsibility
Video has been released showing the circumstances where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a Uber vehicle that was reportedly in fully autonomous mode in Tempe, Arizona on March 19, 2018. Experts have been quoted as saying the vehicle’s lidar systems should have detected the pedestrian even though she stepped out of a darkened area but was on the road for several seconds.
In our view, technology that allows a vehicle to react quicker to an emergency situation than a human has a theoretical benefit that is correctly pursued. Obviously it becomes a question whether that theoretical benefit can be applied in practice to reach a true benefit. Unfortunately this is not the first time that a safety feature has been installed in a vehicle and deaths occurred before problems were detected and changes were made. Memories are short but both air bags and seat belts caused injuries and deaths when introduced and their problems were often covered up so as not to attract negative publicity and therefore slow the process of introducing them into the general population. It is a complicated game when many competing interests are involved, large amounts of money can be lost or gained and the success or failure of many companies are at stake.
Unfortunately there are times when innocent persons are killed and injured because their safety was not the primary concern when a safety device was introduced. That is the unfortunate reality that we at Gorski Consulting would like to minimize where possible. We simply add our voice to the call for all involved to act in an ethical manner and to consider that those that might be subjects of some horrible experiment are persons that are no different than the family and friends that manufacturers, researchers and policy makers have around them. We must always keep a watchful eye and an open ear and react quickly and openly to safety problems that might exist.
March 12, 2018
How Do We Police the Police?
Ontario’s new Police Act bill has been passed but it is uncertain whether its changes will be beneficial. Increasing the power of certain oversight bodies does not necessarily increase the benefits to society when monitoring and evaluating police actions. The question still boils down to an improvement in justice to all, including the police.
Ontario’s new Police Act bill has reportedly been passed and this marks a major overhaul that has not taken place in over 25 years. What it means exactly is not clear. While certain bodies such as police chiefs, the Special Investigations Unit and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIRPD) may have greater power, that does not necessarily translate to greater justice and fairness which must be the ultimate goal of any changes. The importance of transparency was discussed in a report by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch but it is not clear how this transparency will be improved by the new bill. Will justice be seen to be done or will the public be asked to continue to stumble in the dark while improper decisions are withheld from their evaluation?
March 7, 2018
Everyone Knows Why Pedestrian Collisions Are On The Rise – That Is The Problem!
Why bother with more studies and statistics and data and ….We are all experts on why pedestrian collisions and their associated injuries and fatalities are on the increase. And there lies the problem. We always knew what the problem was and we were just waiting for something to back up our preconceived conclusions. This is good science and policy.
February 25, 2018
Fatality From Possible Harpooning of Vehicle by Guardrail on Hwy 400 – How Could This Happen?
Why are police and news media not informing the public that the harpooning of the vehicle by a guardrail where a fatality occurred earlier this morning is not an acceptable consequence?
Police and news media seem to be avoiding the obvious as a vehicle was reportedly harpooned by a guardrail in the northbound lanes of Hwy 400 north of Toronto, Ontario earlier this morning, February 25, 2018. OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt was quoted as saying that the vehicle “slammed into a guardrail”. That is a creative phrasing of the obvious fact that guardrails are meant to deflect the travel direction of a striking vehicle while reducing the vehicle’s speed in a gradual manner. How can the harpooning of the vehicle be called “slamming” as this provides a very obvious misinformation that a penetration of the vehicle occurred.
Yet this is the closest that anyone else has come to saying anything about what transpired as all news agencies appear to be silent on this issue. Where is the informative, investigative journalism that shouts out “Hey wait a minute, this is not supposed happen. How did this occur? Why did this occur?” This was a 19-year-old occupant of a vehicle that had a lifetime to live, and perished under questionable circumstances, does no one care about that?
Oddly, we had just completed posting the news item below regarding the dangers of harpooning when reports of the current tragedy came to light. However the harpooning of a vehicle by a guardrail when the impact appears to be along the length of the rail is quite peculiar. There have been numerous incidents of reported harpooning of vehicles when the end of the rail is struck and this was discussed on this webpage a couple of days ago with respect to the ET-Plus guardrail terminals.
But that does not appear to be the case in the present instance as photos of the guardrail in the present case appear to show that the rail separated somewhere along its length. This would normally suggest that there was a weak point in the anchorage of the rail, possibly where two lengths of rail are joined together. However this is all speculation as there have been no reasonable photos of the rail where it separated and there is no opportunity for anyone to examine it close up before it was repaired. This is a troubling situation as any defect of the guardrail could be hidden from public knowledge.
Harpooning Risks Continue To Exist Despite Gorski Consulting Warnings
Gorski Consulting has made several references to the dangers of roadside rails that, upon impact, create an exposed end of the rail that can harpoon a striking vehicle. This danger was highlighted in a 1989 research paper co-authored by Zygmunt. M. Gorski and the University of Western Ontario Accident Research Team. Warnings were also provided of the exposed ends of such a rail that continues to exist on the busy Oxford Street at its intersection with Quebec Street in London.
We have previously discussed the harpooning of a vehicle by such a railing from an impact in February of 2016 at the intersection of Wharncliffe Road and Horton Street, as noted in the photo below.
This harpooning was caused by the west railing and at that time we also took some photos of the undamaged, east railing as shown below.
While the possibility of harpooning of an occupant of a vehicle is not frequent it only needs to be demonstrated that its effects can be extreme, as shown in a figure taken from our 1989 research paper shown below.
As we have essentially no influence on those who install and maintain these systems all we can do is warn the public through this website.
February 23, 2018
Canadian Class Action Settlement of Roadside Barrier Controversy Has Done Absolutely Nothing For Innocent Victims
Gorski Consulting has monitored the developments relating to the controversy surrounding the ET-Plus guardrail terminal manufactured by Trinity Highway Products of Dallas Texas since the summer of 2014. At the time we became aware of allegations that the ET-Plus could be defective and dangerous we began conducting surveys of the installations in Southern Ontario and subsequently we examined a number of ET-Plus terminals that were damaged from vehicle impacts. All this has been reported in a number of articles that have been uploaded to this website.
As the saying goes, we have no horse in this race. It is of no particular interest to us whether anyone is found at fault for anything. The closest we came to placing our boots on one side of the fence or the other is that we were contacted by McKenzie Lake, which instigated the Canadian class action law suit against Trinity, and we were asked to document the dimensions of several ET-Plus terminals in the Stratford, Ontario area. We were also contacted by Global News in Toronto where a TV segment was prepared to be aired on their “16X9” documentary series that focused on the ET-Plus. In fact the footage that Global news shot during our meeting and field exercise was never aired on their program: another lost moment of fame, if one cared about that. The point is that we have treated this controversy no differently than any other allegation, civil suit or criminal matter: we simply told the truth based on observable fact.
Our field studies demonstrated that, regardless of whether there were some secret alterations to the design of the ET-Plus that were not revealed by Trinity to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, there were some results in the in-service functioning of the system that raised our concerns. The ET-Plus was not functioning in the manner in which it was shown to function in controlled testing. In a large number of instances, upon impact, the rear end of the ET-Plus terminal was deforming the top of the guardrail before the rail had a chance to reach the throat of the terminal and this prevented the rail from passing through the terminal as demonstrated in the controlled testing. In fact we do not know if this was the mechanism that caused the result, it is just a suspicion, and other factors could also be at play. But whatever factors were at play the bottom line is that the terminal was not functioning as it was claimed to function.
Sure enough, other products that exist on the roadside might also not function in the manner they are illuminated to perform in controlled testing. Who knows? Certainly we do not have the resources to study all of the roadside structures and this is a major point. No one knows, and no one is in a position to know, except those specific entities with deep pockets who have the resources to know. Trinity Highway Products has the deep pockets to know however they are not the only ones. The U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) should have infinitely deep pockets because, like any government agency, they simply reach their hands into everyone’s pockets, regardless of whether those pockets are deep. So did the FHWA administration know what they were required to know?
It has been indicated that a jury’s verdict in favour of Mr. Joshua Harmon, and against Trinity, was overturned by a higher U.S. court citing the fact that the FHWA had “approved” the installation of the ET-Plus on U.S. highways. Thus because of this tacit approval blame could not be placed on Trinity. In our view this reasoning should be of grave concern. It was the FHWA which failed to conduct proper evaluations, including in-service documentations of the ET-Plus, which led to the uncertainty about this structure’s adequate performance. Not until many years later, after Mr. Harmon had commenced his legal actions, did FHWA begin to search for performance data from other entities – data that they should have had if they were the agency responsible for determining which roadside structures would be safely installed on U.S. highways. Even upon request of that data it was clear to us that this data was insufficient and thus this led to a selected group of experts to claim that there was no indication that the ET-Plus was any more dangerous than any other roadside structure.
This is a common fact about data and research. Many official agencies sponsor research not to uncover a specific problem, but rather to create confusing data that, upon analysis, reveals that nothing can be concluded. It is a true tragedy when these actions result in the needless loss of innocent lives.
What remains is that perhaps thousands of installations of ET-Plus terminals remain on North American highways without any proper determination whether they will needlessly injure and influence the death of future road users. If those installations are, in fact, no less dangerous than any others then Trinity has also suffered because there has been an obvious decrease in the number of installations of ET-Plus terminals throughout most jurisdictions. Was this done because of the legal issues? Was it done because those jurisdictions found out that there were safety problems but decided not to reveal them for fear of being sued? No one will know.
In the end this does nothing to provide a proper justice to those road users who have sustained major injuries or to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. The need, that should be obvious to everyone, is that a proper documentation of instances involving impacts of ET-Plus terminals must be conducted and made public and that has not occurred.
February 21, 2018
Yet Another Possible Vehicle-Related Drowning West of Orangeville
Just after posting the news item below regarding the drowning near Jarvis, Ontario, news media are now reporting that a vehicle entered the Grand River near Grand Valley, about 20 kilometres west of Orangeville, Ontario where it has been found submerged. A female driver of the vehicle managed to escape however news media are indicating that a child occupant of the vehicle is missing. The vehicle was reportedly swept several kilometres downstream, presumably south, from where it entered. Efforts will now be made to withdraw the vehicle from the river.
Again, the question remains, how did the vehicle come to enter the water? Police are quoted as saying the driver entered onto a closed road and then subsequently entered the water but that says very little. Which road was closed? How was it closed? Was it something where sufficient information was not provided to the driver and a misunderstanding occurred? Where precisely did this entering of the water occur? As per past experience these are important questions that are unlikely to see the light of day.
UPDATE: February 23, 2018; 0900 hours
Further details have been revealed in the last couple of days however majors issues still remain unanswered.
In earlier reports the incident reportedly occurred at 0215 hours however several news agencies reported it occurred at 0100 hours on February 21, 2018. The site where the van entered into the Grand River was reported to be “near 10th Line and Henry Street. It was reported that the van was swept down the river for several kilometres.
In a CP24 News article of 1403 hours of February 21st it was reported that the incident occurred at precisely 0053 hours when a witness saw the headlights of a vehicle bobbing and pointing upward out of the Grand River. A female driver and a 3-year-old child had occupied the vehicle. Constable Paul Nancekivell was quoted as saying “She managed to free herself right away and then the van was swept away moments later”. At approximately 0930 hours a van was reportedly located stuck in the middle of the Grand River however due the fast running water and large ice flows it was determined unsafe for rescuers to reach the vehicle and a cable was attached to it to prevent its further travel down the river. The location of the van was described as “under a bridge in between the 9th Line and 10th Line”.
In a further update by CP24 News at 2018 hours of February 21st, it was reported that a 3-year-old boy was missing as he was swept away from his mother’s grip after their minivan entered the river. The time of the incident was confirmed by police as 0053 hours. Police indicated that the female driver drove past a road block adjacent to the river where water was rushing over top of the road. The van was then swept into the river. Police indicated that the driver was about to exit the van with her son when “the boy was swept away from her grip down the river”. The van was found further downstream and secured with cables. Rescuers were in the process of searching for the boy.
Visibility at the time of the incident was reported to be extremely poor such that “You couldn’t see past the hood of your vehicle”.
There was still no specific information about the location where the van was swept away from the road and where it was found.
In a Hamilton Spectator newspaper article Grand Valley District Chief Kevin McNeilly was quoted as saying that the weather conditions were “treacherous” at the time the mother and son were swept away. It was extremely foggy and at one point the river rose three feet in a matter of 20 minutes.
In a CP24 News article at 0834 hours of February 22nd it was confirmed that the van had already been pulled out of the water however its exact location was still not provided.
In a Toronto Star newspaper article the young boy was identified as Kaden Young and his mother, Michelle Hanson was the driver of the van. Some indication of the location was provided in the phrase “Firefighters found Hanson, hypothermic, at a watery alcove on the river’s bank”. While this information is exceeding scant, at least it refers to an alcove.
In an article published by CBC News at 0919 hours of February 22nd, some specifics were provided. It indicated that the mother drove past a road closure sign and it was foggy at the time but police opined that she knew the sign was there.
In an article published by CJOY, Constable Nancekivell was quoted as saying that Michell Hanson had been “driving southbound down 10th Line and failed to stop at the road closure that had been in place. The woman drove into heavy water and when she tried to back up, the van was swept into the Grand River”. Hanson reportedly pulled her son from the van after it was swept into the river but lost her grip. She managed to pull herself onto the bank of the river but the van was swept seven kilometres down river and got stuck in some silt. Hanson was reported to live in the area.
In a Hamilton Spectator newspaper article of 0544 hours, February 22nd, the authors indicated that Hanson “accidentally missed a road-closure sign”, suggesting that she did not do so deliberately as suggested by Constable Nancekivell. The article also quoted Hanson’s family members who stated that Hanson did not see the road-closure sign due to dark and foggy conditions. Fire Chief Kevin McNeilly was quoted to say that his firefighters initially responded to a call about a motor vehicle collision just before 1 a.m. but, while on route, they were notified that a vehicle had gone into the river. If there was a second incident involving an accident it has not been reported by any other agencies. A rescue vehicle was sent to the Dufferin County Road 109 bridge where they heard Hanson’s calls for help.
This would imply that the van must have been carried past the Cty Rd 109 bridge if Hanson was not carried with the van. However it is possible that she also might have been carried downstream for some distance or that perhaps she moved down stream of her own volition. Yet the article indicated the van was found “upstream” where it was secured. This is rather confusing as it would suggest that Hanson was carried downstream, to the south, past the van which was found upstream, or north of her location at the Cty Rd 109 bridge.
Examination of the photos showing the van’s location one can observe a utility pole sticking out of the water and comparing this to images on GoogleMaps suggests that the pole in question was located on the north edge of the the bridge of Cty Rd 109, although we cannot be absolutely certain. A further examination of the GoogleMaps data suggests that the distance from the Cty Rd 109 bridge northward to the hamlet of Waledmar is slightly more than 1 kilometre and, if the van was swept along the river for seven kilometres as indicated by news media this does not make sense. Further analysis indicates that the distance northward from the Cty Rd 109 bridge to the point where the 10th Line crosses the Grand River is only 2.3 kilometres thus this is also far short of the seven kilometres that was quoted in the CJOY article. None of this confusion has been clarified.
Having examined further news media photos it is our opinion that the van was swept away from the road at a bend in the 10th Line located 1.5 kilometres north of the Cty Rd 109 bridge. This is a location just a few hundred metres north of Henry Street in the hamlet of Waledmar. In our opinion the van was likely stopped at the Cty Rd 109 bridge where Ms. Hanson was also found. At least this is the best interpretation that can be made based on the confusing information that has been reported. In fact the those reporting the incident could not have made this information any more confusing nor as if there was a purposeful attempt to preventing anyone from knowing the precise manner in which this incident unfolded.
There is an obvious conflict with respect to what happened as Ms. Hanson approached the wash out and why she passed through the reported road closure. If the water at the site had been rising as quickly as 3 feet per every 20 minutes it is not difficult to imagine that an initial placement of a road closure barricade could be overwhelmed by the rising water. The barricade could be partially submerged or even knocked over, as has been witnessed on a number of previous occasions on any roadway. If there was an actual trailer with some mass to it then that interference could be less likely. If a barricade remained standing then, even in dense fog, it would be difficult to image that Ms. Hanson could not have detected it if it was properly placed a cross the majority of the road width. Granted, with the lack of visibility she might be expected to drive into the barrier but it is difficult to believe she would not actually detect its presence. So what were the actual conditions at the road closure. There have no questions or answers provided on this important issue. As typical there a substantial outpouring of grief and emotion which is detracting form the important quest to reveal how and why this innocent boy likely came to his death.
Ultimately the revelation of how this came about is a societal issue, not a personal one, as we must all be responsible for ensuring that no one dies from unknown reasons by the actions of unknown persons.
Another Drowning Death Receives Minimal Attention
The repetitive circumstances by which another driver died in relatively shallow water has received essentially no coverage in the official news media. The City-Pulse 24 News in Toronto published a brief mention of the incident, written by the Canadian Press, where Jeffery Walker, the driver of a pick-up truck died after his vehicle “rolled over and ended up submerged in a creek in Jarvis, Ont.”. The article indicated that police were notified of the incident at 0930 hours by a passerby. The article also indicated that police did not know exactly when the crash happened. No further information was provided.
The actual location of the crash was on Walpole Concession Road 5 just west of Haldimand Road 55, thou that was not mentioned in the CP24 article.
One would have to go to other news agencies to obtain further information. Such information was found in the Brantford Expositor newspaper which actually showed a photograph of the vehicle still lying upside down in the creek, as noted below.
One does not need to look very closely to recognize that the depth of the water in which the truck came to rest was actually quite shallow, perhaps a couple of feet at most. While it is possible that the driver was killed as a result of the impact, it remains a very real possibility that he could have drowned, perhaps by being unable to exit the vehicle for example. The scenario is not much different than the one we reported in our news item of February 7th of this webpage where the occupants of a partially submerged vehicle were rescued by a passerby, as noted in the photo below.
Photo at site, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, taken by Craig Paisley of the CBC, reportedly showing Richard Kirk and the location in the water-filled ditch where he located the upside down car.
In both instances we are dealing with roadways that are of relatively low traffic volume, yet their maintenance requirements can be estimated by noting that the roadways are paved and therefore would not carry the lowest traffic volumes. Yet in the incident in Wolfville, Nova Scotia there was no barrier between the road and the water hazard.
Similarly we can look at the site of the collision near Jarvis by going to Google Maps. Unfortunately Google Maps does not a provide a “Street View” of the site and we can only see an overall, aerial view as shown below.
Google Maps view of Walpole Concession 5, the site of the mentioned fatal rollover into the creek.It should be obvious that there is no barrier at this site between the road and the water hazard.
These are matters that the public ought to be made aware of. There are numerous small bodies of water, such as creeks and even ditches, where a vehicle entering the water could result in the death of any occupants that are unable to escape the vehicle interior. Rollovers can be very mild events, even at high speeds because the deceleration of the tumbling vehicle takes place over a relatively long time. It has been publicized on numerous occasions that, in order to gain the best advantage, occupants need to be wearing their seat-belts so that they stay inside the safe cage of the vehicle. In such instances the rate of deceleration is in the range of 0.5 g which is less than what occurs when maximum braking is applied on dry, hard-surfaced road. When have we ever seen fatal injuries from the force experienced by maximum braking? It is unheard of. So, in a general sense, the forces experienced in a rollover should be of minimal consequence provided that the occupant remains inside the vehicle.
But now we have a different twist that no one wants to talk about: What happens when there is a fire or the vehicle becomes filled with water? If the occupants cannot get out of the vehicle then the scenario becomes extremely dangerous. We need to discuss this issue without emotion but with reason and science. Throwing one’s hands up and concluding there is no reasonable solution is illogical. Putting one’s hands over one’s eyes, such as providing no news coverage, is also just as illogical. It is our duty to make this point known.
February 13, 2018
Sympathy For Kernaghan Family Should Be Accompanied By Active Investigation Of Why And How Their Fatal Collision Happened
13-year-old Avery Kernaghan was killed in a collision on Glendon Drive west of London, Ontario on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Her father, Douglas, remains in critical condition. As noted numerous times on this website, sympathy for the surviving family and friends of those killed and injured in motor vehicle collisions is an obviously natural and commendable human expression. The tragic death of a young girl, Avery Kernaghan, over the weekend is difficult to accept even for those of us who are not directly involved. The unknown outcome of Avery’s father, Douglas, must also keep everyone hoping for his recovery. At times like these it is difficult to turn one’s focus away from these emotions and focus on the cold facts. Yet these cold facts are also important.
It is now approaching four full days since the collision occurred on Saturday afternoon, February 10th, on Glendon Drive, just west of London, Ontario. Yet absolutely nothing has been revealed regarding the collision. Even the sparse reporting that is provided by official news media is often accompanied by a photograph of the collision scene or damaged vehicles so some appreciation can be gained that what has been reported matches reality. But not in this instance. Shortly after the collision occurred the London Free Press provided a long-distance view from Parkhouse Drive looking at an emergency helicopter with emergency vehicles located in the distant background, but nothing more.
Nothing has been reported about the basics of the collision: Was it a head-on collision? Why did Avery and her father sustain their injuries while the other driver was reportedly uninjured? Did the roadway conditions play a role in the crash? Given the very scant information we at Gorski Consulting have some suspicions as to what factors existed. But given the lack of evidence it is understandable that we could be wrong and there is no point in discussing those thoughts at this time.
We drove by the collision site on following day, Sunday, February 11th and the photos below provide some idea of what the site looked like at that time.
In the photo above there is no indication of any collision evidence except for a difference in the shading of the pavement in the westbound lane just in front of the vehicle approaching the camera. This is near the driveway located at residence marker #9224. Obviously the characteristics of the site would have changed as this is more than 24 hours after the occurrence. So what was the roadway like at the time of the collision?
The single photo provided by the London Free Press shows some evidence of the road surface conditions and this shows some snow, of varying depth and position, located on the pavement. Was this varying snow a factor in the collision?
There are a number of questions that need to be answered. It is not just a matter isolated to the family and friends in this matter. We believe that the next Avery Kernaghan is an unknown distance away in the future and we have an opportunity to prevent her death just like we had an opportunity to study previous collisions whereby our actions might have prevented Avery’s death. We have an obligation to thoroughly evaluate how and why the present collision occurred and to cause changes to be made to lower the chance of the next family experiencing such a devastating loss.
February 11, 2018
Car Found In Niagara River But No News About Condition of Driver
It should not be surprising that no one outside of readers of the St Catharines newspaper would be aware that a person was found inside a submerged car in the Niagara River on the afternoon of Friday, February 9th, 2018. Certainly there was no other mention of the fact in any other news outlets. But even the newspaper could not inform anyone of the status of the occupant. “When, how, why and where the car entered the water remains under investigation by police”, as was noted in the newspaper article. As per past history it is unlikely that the public will ever be told about any “when, how, why or how” relating to this incident.
With the narrowing of news sources to just a few, the loss of professional journalists, and the inability to investigate but simply parrot what little information is provided by primary investigators, society is at a critical edge of being grossly misinformed about issues of major importance. Lack of information about road motor vehicle collisions and deaths is only the tip of the iceberg but it is indicative of the general need for the public to be properly and truthfully informed.
February 10, 2018
Highway 401 Median Barriers – Review of Historical Data on a Re-Ignited Controversy
In the last several years a controversy has erupted in South-Western Ontario with respect to the incidence of median cross-over collisions occurring along the 118-kilometre segment of Highway 401 where no median barriers exist. This section of the busy super-highway is located between Tilbury and London, Ontario. This controversy is reminiscent of a similar one that erupted in the late 1980s when similar median crossover collisions were occurring between London and Woodstock, Ontario.
In the 1980s Zygmunt Gorski was working as an accident investigator with the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team. He was involved in the inquest into the median crossover collisions and provided testimony and results of the Team’s research. Due to the lack of objective information that is presently available to the public on the need and importance of median barriers Gorski Consulting has decided to release some of the information and data surrounding the studies conducted thirty years ago in an article that is available on the Articles page on this Gorski Consulting website. It is hoped that his information with be helpful to those currently having difficulties and concerns regarding the safety of Highway 401. Please visit the Articles page on this site and examine this latest upload.
February 8, 2018
Concern Over Recent Tragedies Fails To High-Light Need For Quicker Adoption of Automatic Emergency Braking
On high speed highways not all drivers are able to detect stopped vehicles or construction workers ahead of their path. Automatic detection and deployment of automatic emergency braking could be very beneficial but that technology may take a long time to reach the majority of the vehicle fleet.
In recent days there have been several developments in South-Western Ontario where citizens and organizations attempted to highlight the need for specific safety features. Notably, a group originating from the Chatham, Ontario region has been pressing the Ontario government to install permanent concrete barriers in the median of Highway 401 in the 118 kilometres between Tilbury and London where no barriers exist. Only a few days ago the Ontario government indicated it would proceed with installation of those barriers but not until many years in the future. In the interim, high-tension cable median barriers (HTCMB) are to be installed commencing in 2018. The barriers are needed to prevent median crossover collisions which are often severe and sometimes result in fatalities. That would appear to be a good cause however a large number of collisions also occur when traffic is stopped, or slowed, resulting in serious rear-end impacts. Little concern or thought is given to how this large number of serious collisions could be avoided or reduced in their severity.
On a second front, an inquest has just been completed in St. Thomas, Ontario with respect to the death of a construction worker who was killed while operating as a Traffic Control Person (TCP) at a work zone on Highway 3 in St. Thomas in July of 2014. That inquest led to several recommendations that might be helpful but again, little mention was made of actions that could be taken to prevent such a worker from being struck by a driver who might not have seen the worker in time to avoid the collision.
In both of these instances, and in many others, Automatic Emergency Braking might make a large difference. Rather than relying on a driver’s vision and decision-making to apply deceleration to a vehicle, a variety of “automatic vision” systems can apply braking much earlier and do not need the driver’s involvement. This could have tremendous safety benefits.
However, a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimated that only about 5 percent of vehicles in 2021 will be equipped with this technology and 95 percent of vehicles will have this technology by about the year 2045. That is a long time to wait.
At a time when drivers are reportedly lulled into a state of “hypo-vigilance”, as recently commented by Ontario Ministry of Transportation representatives, it becomes extremely important to use automatic braking technology especially when various construction projects exist and collisions cause blockages to major roads such as Highway 401. Where drivers’ expectations may be fooled by unexpected happenings, automatic braking may be there to take control, if vehicles are so equipped. The public’s attention should be turned toward recognizing that we need this safety technology much sooner than 30 years from now.
February 7, 2018
Drowning Danger In Wolfville Nova Scotia Collision May Be Under-Appreciated
In a CBC news item entitled “Angel who pulled teens from car wreckage says he’s no superhero” the public may be rather skeptical when observing the photograph of the collision site where Richard Kirk found a car upside down in a water-filled ditch near Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The description of a hero saving the lives of Alex Pineo and his girlfriend Cassidy Jones might sound a little exaggerated when the photo of the site shows a relatively moderate ditch with an equally moderate level of frozen water, as shown below.
One also needs to observe the damage to the car as shown below to appreciate the actual, unappreciated danger.
View of the damage to the car that was found upside down in the water-filled ditch.
While not life-threatening, the damage to the front end of the car suggests this was not a simple, non-event. There would have been sufficient change-in-velocity from this impact that could disorient and perhaps even immobilize an occupant.
Combine this fact with the vehicle being upside down and occupants typically wearing seat-belts. The unfortunate reality is that often occupants have a difficulty removing a seat belt when the weight of the person’s body is pressing on the system. Yes, that is not supposed to happen and testing of the latch system under laboratory conditions is conducted to prevent that: But in the real world it happens especially when the occupant is disoriented and panicked by the need to exit a vehicle as it is being filled with water.
What is also common is that the doors of many collision-involved vehicles are simply difficult to open. Over and over again there are descriptions of various occupants and even professional rescuers having difficulty opening doors. Sometimes these openings need to be made very quickly, especially when there is a developing fire, or if a vehicle has entered into a body of water.
Water and cold are a bad mix. When an occupant cannot escape the interior of a vehicle that is filling with water time becomes a true enemy. Not all rescues are performed within minutes of an occurrence. In fact, many vehicles that enter a body of water do so on low volume roads where the standards of design and maintenance are less than on higher volume roads. Barriers that should normally exist to separate vehicles from bodies of water often do not exist on low volume roads. This often means that potential rescuers may not pass by the accident site too often. If an occupant cannot escape the interior of an overturned vehicle on his/her own then it could mean an extended time being immobile in cold or freezing water. It does not take much imagination to understand that this is a bad mix that can easily lead to death.
Another crucial fact is that, on many lower volume roads the roadside ditches are narrower with steeper embankments. This means that when a vehicle enters such a ditch the sides of the embankments pinch the doors shut and it becomes almost impossible to open the doors without professional help.
The photo of the ditch shown at the top if this article would make many observers question how unsafe it could be when the water level does not appear to be very high and the vehicle would not be fully submerged. How heroic could it be for someone to pull two occupants out a a vehicle in such a shallow body of water? Nothing could be further from the truth. If Richard Kirk had not arrived to pull open the doors of this car, we may have been reporting the deaths of two persons found frozen in a partially submerged car. The danger is under-appreciated yet it exists along far too many roadsides.
February 5, 2018
Canadian Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Says Judge Misconduct System Is “Outmoded, Slow And Opaque”
(An editorial comment by Zygmunt M. Gorski)
Few structures in society are as important as a reliable system of justice. In the end, that reliability rests on the wisdom, honesty, independence and foresight of a very few individuals whom we call judges. However it also rests upon others working within it and under the scrutiny of those judges. Over a number of years I have appeared as an expert witness where, on rare occasions, but disturbingly too many, the actions of members of the court and those appearing before a court, have been, to use the least offensive term, inappropriate. At no point or time could I see a remedy to this because the proper functioning of the courts was not under my control or even my influence. Only yesterday if I had raised my concerns my words would be used at my next court appearance by an opposing lawyer as an indication of my bias and perhaps even my contempt of the court. It is not surprising how often criticisms that could be beneficial to the functioning of the courts never see the light of day in this environment.
However, today is a new day. The new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada made an important comment that few others could make. Chief Justice Richard Wagner acknowledged that “the system for dealing with complaints of serious misconduct by judges needs an overhaul” (Canadian Press). He also reportedly pointed out “It has become increasingly evident that our procedures for dealing with serious judicial conduct complaints are outmoded, slow and opaque”. He also indicated “While Canadians expect transparency and accountability, we continue to operate under 1970s models of judicial administration”.
Transparency is a very large word. Without it many inappropriate actions are capable of being hidden. I do not expect that all the problems of the courtroom can be corrected via some magical potion. And not all those problems can be attributed to judges. However transparency is the one ingredient that can play a very large role in exposing those problems and therefore preventing them. I am hopeful that Chief Justice Wagner can achieve this one important change.
I am obligated to attend trials and be an unbiased reporter of truthful facts. I understand that duty clearly and whatever else takes place in a courtroom will not sway me from that commitment. It would make my work easier however if the courtroom became less of an uncontrolled battleground of twisted reasoning, as I have sometimes had the misfortune to observe. In the present system that exists two opposing sides often make ridiculous pronouncements. It not only requires the judge’s intelligence to cut through this maze, but it also requires a focus on careful listening, and a non-egotistical and non-prejudicial temperament to correctly guide the court to justice. I cannot say that I have always seen this happen.
February 4, 2018
Why Are There Recent Increases In Traffic Fatalities?
In the fall of 2017 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released figures for the number of roadway deaths that occurred in the U.S. in 2016. 37,461 persons were reportedly killed which represented an increase of 5.6 percent over 2015. This is a concern because, since the mid-1970s traffic deaths have been plummeting except for 2015 when alarm bells went off due to a surprising increase. Now the news indicates that 2016 is yet another increase over 2015. So why is this happening?
NHTSA provided some clues. Motorcyclist, cyclist and pedestrian fatalities all showed major increases. However they do not tell us whether these deaths are related to an increased danger to these segments of society or whether there is simply an increased exposure due to larger numbers of these groups in the roadway environment.
Throughout recent years cars and light trucks have become technologically more advanced. Electronic stability control was supposed to reduce a vast number of loss-of-control crashes. Is that what the national statistics show?
Advanced air bags situated throughout the vehicle interior were supposed to reduce fatalities. Did this actually occurred?
When modern vehicles became equipped with a vast array of electronics did this complicate the situation? Are there more fires in modern vehicles due to damage of these electronic components?
There are many questions that need answers.
February 1, 2018
$237,000 In Legal Costs For A $20,000 Claim!!!
OK, we accept that we live in a new world where the President of the United States has a “I’m Fake News” label stitched to the back of every suit jacket. This is a world where law, justice, wrong and more wrong mean very little. But aside from the Trump vacuum the rest of society must still be the same sane self. Maybe not…
The news media have reported on a minor insurance claim by an 84-year-old lady who claimed injury when she was rear-ended in a motor vehicle crash. The insurer reportedly would not pay the requested $20,000 claim and would not even pay a reduced claim of just $10,000 before the matter went into court. At trial the jury awarded the the claimant her $20,000. But then the judge awarded an additional $237,000 to her for her legal fees. If the claimant’s legal fees were rightly $237,000, would the insurer with the deep pockets also be expected to have similar legal expenditures? And one could consider all the other costs, of the court’s time etc., which would likely amount to a total cost of this caper of over half a million dollars.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada has made many advertisements over the years of the cost of fraud and how that cost is eventually passed on by the insurer to the insurance premiums of the insureds’. Thus it is an incentive for all to report any incidents of fraud. So when an insurer takes a hard stance in this mentioned small claim and the costs are over half a million dollars guess who eventually pays? It is not the insurer. It is joyfully passed on to the average payer of insurance premiums. Nothing more needs to be said.
January 22, 2018
Advent of the Snow Cyclist
While many were happy when roads in North America began to become more cyclist-friendly, no one considered what would happen in northern cities where snowfall is common and cyclists suddenly decide to venture out. In warm months some cyclists could avoid dangerous sections of roads by simply riding on the sidewalk and then returning to the road when the dangerous area was passed. But when heavy snow falls the sidewalk is no longer an option. Many cyclists now plow through the narrowed lanes of a road even in those dangerous sections and collisions are only inevitable. Unfortunately many collisions involve sideswipes of the cycle where the driver of a motor vehicle might not even detect that contact was made. In some instances drivers become charged with a hit-&-run due such glancing blows while in other cases collisions could even be deadly to the cyclist. It is a problem that appears to be on the rise.
January 16, 2018
Medical Scooters Pose A Safety Problem When Snow Falls
It is surprising that more elderly riders of medical scooters are not struck by other traffic on winter days when there is a large snowfall. As shown in the photo above, sidewalks are often caked with heavy snow making it impossible for a medical scooter to travel on the sidewalk. Thus the scooter ends up travelling in the lane of a roadway. In the above photo the rider’s dark clothing in contrasted well against the white of the snow, the visibility is relatively good, and there is no other traffic present.
But there is a reason why this roadway has four lanes. It means that this is a busy road. Actually it is Adelaide Street in London, Ontario, just north of Oxford Street. Everyone in London knows that Adelaide Street is a busy arterial roadway and it is just luck that at the time this photo was taken there is no traffic around. When combined with heavy traffic, poor visibility and no reflective clothing or a flag mounted to the scooter, this presents a dangerous situation. And it is not such a rare occurrence as one might think.
Consideration should be given when providing a scooter to an elderly person that they also be provided with warnings and training to make them aware of the dangers that exist when riding in a live lane. The issue is not always that simple because many elderly are isolated and end up fending for themselves and without other methods of transportation.
So we say again, it is a wonder that more elderly riders of scooters are not struck after a heavy snow falls…
Canada’s Transportation Safety Being Influenced by Operations of Multi-National Corporations
What will we do if this Carillion dinosaur becomes extinct? Will your local grandma scramble onto Highway 401 and begin clearing it with a shovel?Privatization of the Province of Ontario’s road maintenance was sold to the public as a cost saving and the public swallowed it like a hungry fish. As time passed, the initial large number of contractors that held those maintenance contracts became diminished as the Government slowly transferred those contracts to a smaller number of large firms. Presently, a multi-national British firm, Carillion, now has most of the contracts in Ontario. The problem is that this week the parent company fell in a financial collapse leaving the Canadian arm in limbo along with 6000 Canadian jobs. While Carillion has assured the public that road maintenance will continue it leaves the question of what the Ontario public “bought and got” due to the privatization of it road maintenance.
When the Ontario government had its own snow plows and other maintenance equipment there was no concern over what might happen to a distance multi-national company, maintenance would continue. If the Canadian arm of Carillion were to fold what would happen to the maintenance of Ontario’s roads? Could the government send out its military to force road maintenance personnel to continue their work? Likely not. But the point is clear. The public was blindsided over deals made by certain government personnel and politicians.
In another matter, Aecon, a massive construction and engineering firm operating in Canada is recently going through the final stages of being purchased by a Chinese multi-national construction firm, China Communications Construction Co., which is a company owned by the country of China. The problem is that Aecon also won the Canadian government contact to assess the safe transportation of nuclear waste from its nuclear energy generating stations to a permanent underground facility, most likely near the Bruce generating station near Kincardine, Ontario. Again, does no one see a problem with China’s ability to influence the safe transportation of nuclear waste in Canada? Should that assessment not be carried out by a Canadian firm and Canadian experts?
Gorski Consulting was part of a group of experts assembled by Dillon Consulting, a Canadian engineering firm, to compete against Aecon for that contract. There were no problems from our viewpoint when that contract was not given to Dillon as this would have been a side-line to our regular work and could have taken us away from our regular clients for a substantial time. However, for the independent assessment of the safety of the Canadian public, we now recognize the jeopardy that could exist when China could be the one pulling the strings on its new puppet.
In totality, various deals are taking place continually in the world marketplace that have an impact on the daily activities of the general public in many countries. Canada is no exception. There is a necessity to be alert to these goings on as they can influence our communal safety. The inhabitants of Canada and Ontario should be the ones to decide how their safety will be assessed and protected.
January 14, 2018
Sidewalk Snow Plow Death In London Raises the Question of Their Safety
On Tuesday morning, January 9, 2018 a sidewalk snow plow was struck by an eastbound freight train at the Colborne Street Crossing of the Canadian National Railway tracks in London, Ontario. The driver of the plow, Malcolm Trudell, was killed.
Reports filed by local news media indicated that Trudell had begun plowing activities at approximately 2200 hours on the previous night and, given that the collision occurred at about 1000 hours on the following day, would mean that Trudell could have been working as much as 12 hours.
Reports indicated that the snow plow was northbound when it was struck and was pushed about 50 metres to the east. Furthermore, witnesses claimed that the train struck the front “snowblower” portion of the plow and thus did not strike the plow directly into its side. If such information were correct then a post-impact travel distance of about 50 metres would yield a train speed of about 80 km/h, if this had been a direct impact. The suggestion that the impact was a glancing one would indicate a higher speed of the train. Thus this information would lead into question why a freight train was travelling so quickly through the downtown area of the City of London. As if often the case, evidence reported by witnesses and written in news articles is often in error but the post-impact travel distance needs to be revealed by police.
A troubling aspect of the matter is that London City Police apparently referred all further questions to the “CN police”. There is always a concern that police are paid by the same entity (The City of London) as the potential defendant (Also The City of London) and this could lead to a bias in the investigation. This concern might be heightened when the CN police now become the investigators of an incident where their company could be the defendant.
The local news media reported that a railway safety expert, Richard Plokhaar, analysed the safety of 65 railway crossings in London and determined that the crossing at Colborne Street was the second-most dangerous. It was not explained what criteria and methodology were used in this assessment. It was noted however that, when the arms come down to block the roadway, no such arms block the actual sidewalk. Thus the argument could be posed that the plow driver could have entered into the crossing not realizing that the arms had come down on the road and that a train was approaching.
Others would pose the alternative argument that lights were flashing, a bell was ringing and the train let out a horn for what one witness described as about 30 seconds. If the train was travelling at 80 km/h or 22.2 metres per second, and if the impact occurred at about 30 seconds after the sounding of the horn then the start of the horn would have occurred when the train was about 666 metres west of the crossing. While that is possible it does not seem likely. Such a distance would be about halfway between Wellington Road and Richmond Street and it is questionable whether the train engineer could see the crossing at Colborne Street from such a distance.
What is notable is that an eastbound train does not pass through any level crossings in the west part of the City until Colborne Street and it could be travelling quite quickly because of the lack of concern with such crossings. As the Colborne Street crossing the first, at-grading crossing, one would think that special care and perhaps a slower speed would be needed so as not to catch persons by surprise.
Even if the conditions at the Colborne Street crossing are set aside, there was still major concerns about the environment in which drivers of these sidewalk plows must work. As noted in the photo at the top of this article, some sidewalk plows must operate within the travel lanes of a road or highway in order to clear some portions of the roadside. In the photo above the driver is working to clear snow in a transit bus lane at the intersection of Oxford Street and Highbury. This is a high traffic-volume location. Normally when work is being performed in a travel lane or close to it a variety of warning signs need to be erected to warn drivers. But when a small snow plow is plowing snow that signage never exists.
Below is another view of the snow as it travels in the southbound lane of Highbury Ave, carrying a pile of snow. Note that the cage around the driver’s head does not allow much visibility and the lifting arms of the plow normally rise to the driver’s eye height on occasions.
Another view of the plow is shown below and we can see the limited visibility available to the sides and behind the vehicle.
On January 27, 2014, we documented a Bobcat, sidewalk snow plow travelling north on the west sidewalk of Clarke Road as it passed over the railway tracks of the Goderich-Exeter railway line, as noted below. This is the same unit, S185, that is shown above at the Oxford and Highbury location.
A closer view of the driver in the cab below shows that he is wearing ear protection.
Clearly such ear protection is not helpful when the driver needs to hear the bell at the railway crossing or the horn of a locomotive approaching the plow’s location.
There are several types of sidewalk plows that operate along the streets of London. Below is an example of a Terex plow. This unit also has limited visibility available to the driver.
Another example of a different walkway plow is shown below. This is an older unit displaying the “City of London” patch on the lower part of its left door. It only has a front plow and therefore now arms that might lift and blow the driver’s view. There is an attachment in the rear possibly for storing sand or salt.
Below is yet another variate of the snowplow that has the frontal appearance of a small tractor. Again, it has no arms but just a forward snowblower attachment.
Another sidewalk plow that appears to be like a small tractor was observed on the west sidewalk of Clarke Road just north of Dundas Street on January 7, 2018.A closer view of the cab of this snowplow is shown below. Here we can see that the driver is not wearing any ear protection and he is also not wearing a helmet.
In all the examples we have seen there is no evidence that any of the drivers of the plows actually wear helmets. Yet, looking at the upper surroundings of the cabs there also does not appear to be any protection if the driver’s head should strike the interior during an impact. We are accustomed to seeing the advanced head protection afforded in modern passenger vehicles without raising a thought that these protections are mandated by the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) and their U.S. counterparts (FMVSS). It is highly unlikely that these standards are applied to the interiors of these small snowplows yet the danger of sustaining a major head injury could be greater than average.
Thus even a simple $35 dollar bicycling helmet could improve the safety of the drivers of these small snowplows. While one might say that such a helmet might be no match for an impact with a massive train locomotive such a conclusion is premature. If an impact is a glancing one, such as described the Colborne Street collision, the lack of any structural intrusion to the cab interior means that there could have been sufficient opportunity to survive provided that other safety devices such as a seat-belt were used.
Certainly there is a need to examine these issues more thoroughly and it is reported that an inquest might be called into this incident.
January 5, 2018
Police and Official News Media Continue to Flash Red Herrings in Front of the Public’s Eyes With Respect to the Causes of Collisions
You read and hear of it from police and official news media in almost every report of a collision: “The cause of the collision is unknown at this time”.
Such was the case again on January 3, 2018 when an eastbound vehicle reportedly struck the large anchorage pole near a ramp of Highway 401 resulting in fatal injuries to both occupants of the vehicle. Naturally, in the early stages of a collision investigation there are facts that cannot be known. But some results are simply too glaring and obvious that they require some form of recognition.
An eastbound vehicle impacted the anchorage pole of an overhead sign on Hwy 401 near Warden and Kennedy Roads. Police and news media failed to inform the public that such an incident should not occur. Anyone who has even a basic understanding of road safety understands that Highway 401 should be designed and maintained to the highest degree because it carries so much of a volume of traffic that any deficiency could easily result in at least one deadly incident. So when police and news media observe a vehicle wrapped around an anchorage pole, as shown in the photo above, the immediate question that should be raised is how and why the vehicle struck the pole and whether this is acceptable. Roadsides of such high speed expressways are designed to limit the severity of impacts through a variety of systems that, when impacted, may deflect the impacting vehicle or the system may deform or become deflected. All these actions result in a gradual reduction in speed of the vehicle which lowers the potential for occupant injury. When there is an impact which causes the vehicle to reduce its speed to zero then that cannot be acceptable. Even a vehicle travelling at 50 km/h that strikes an immovable object can result in fatal injuries, even with all the modern technology built into modern vehicles.
A photo of the vehicle shown below demonstrates the very large amount of crush and comments were made suggesting that the vehicle must have been travelling at a tremendous speed to cause such crush. Yet no one informed the public that when a vehicle strikes a narrow immovable object with its roof then tremendous crush can occur even at speeds of only 50 km/h because the roof any vehicle is very soft. The impression is left that there is no need to examine this incident any further because this was another obvious scenario of a driver travelling at tremendous speed and nothing else is of relevance.
Police will likely have access to the vehicle’s event data recorder (“black box”) and they could inform the public of the exact speed registered in the data – if they so wished. And any news journalist could put that question to police so as to inform the public. But that never happens. So far as the public is concerned there is no need to examine this further because the police and news media can be trusted to tell the truth.
But has the truth been told, or is there such a thing as a half truth which results in a lie? How did the striking vehicle end up making contact so high above the concrete barrier which should have deflected its motion? Surely even a jet propelled rocket travelling at 500 km/h along the surface of the road and striking a flat wall at a sharp angle should not be deflected upward because no upward force should exist, the forces involved should all be parallel to the road surface. Clearly concrete barriers such as the one shown in the above photos have been in existence for decades and have sustained thousands upon thousands of impacts with great success in deflecting a vehicle’s path or causing the vehicle to ride along its surface over long distances before the vehicle comes to a stop. But that is not what happened in this case.
As experts in road safety and collision reconstruction the public who read our news items and articles depend upon us to provide accurate and truthful opinions and advice. However when incidents like these occur there is very little information made available for us to provide conclusive comments. Yet we see that something occurred which was obviously wrong. If we were to say what we suspect happened there is a possibility that we might provide the wrong opinion. Yet the importance of these occurrences requires that someone say something. We have made comments on a number of occasions where all the facts were not available for the very reason that these matters affect the safety of the public in general. Just because those whose responsibility it is to properly inform the public do not do so does not mean that we should remain silent. That process needs to be changed.
The public should not be provided with red herrings waved in front of their noses to distract them from the obvious questions that should be asked and the obvious answers that the public should have. Why did this vehicle strike the pole like it did and why was it not deflected by the concrete barrier like it should have? There may be an explanation for that and the explanation may be acceptable but the public should hear that explanation and be informed by neutral parties whether the explanation makes sense.
January 1, 2018
Happy New Year – Or At Least A Better One Than The Last
As New Year’s Day represents a closing of most of the major celebrating of the holiday season this is an opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished at Gorski Consulting in 2017.
We started 2017 with our reporting on the research we have been conducting at the S-curve of Clarke Road north of Fanshawe Park Road in the north-eastern outskirts of London, Ontario. Several articles were posted to this website that showed that many single-vehicle collisions and incidents are not reported in official statistics and this may reflect on the accuracy of any conclusions and effectiveness of policies aimed at improving road safety.
We also reported on the testing we performed on Highway 401 just east of London, Ontario where we documented the average speeds of eastbound vehicles.
We also reported on our work involving the documentation of steering wheel rotations and how this can be used to explore the character and geometry of road surfaces and curves.
However going into the 2nd quarter of the year we began to experience a higher workload involving the needs of our clients and this resulted in a reduction in the number of articles posted to this site. This did not mean that we were no longer involved in our work but rather we were too busy to report on our activities. This resulted in the lowest number of articles being posted to this website in the last several years.
We attempted to maintain some consistency in reporting various issues on the News page of this site however this too became difficult as we ran out of time. Thus in the last quarter of 2017 we also presented very few news items to this site.
We have been aware, and continue to be aware, of the popularity of various social media such as Facebook and Twitter and we have had options to join these groups like so many have. Up to this time we have opted not to do so. Many would comment that we are missing out on communicating to a much larger audience and this would improve our business success. If these matters were of importance to us we would have gone this route a number of years ago.
The fact is, the monetary success of our business is of minor importance and that would appear to be a strange comment to many. However, we have a valid message. Whether it reaches only a few is irrelevant at this time. Those who choose to visit our site are welcome. Those who wish to follow other pursuits we also wish them well. Our business is thriving sufficiently well that we do not need to chase new business and the complications that this brings. We think we offer valuable advice for those who wish to take it and it is free. We do not allow any advertising on this site and will continue to do so because we see the annoyance that it brings when we visit other websites. We are not interested in selling you anything except useful advice when you meet difficult times.
We hope to pursuit our goals in 2018 as we have in other years. Our goal is to be truthful, to communicate difficult subject matter and opinions that will not always be shared by all. Our goal will continue to improve the safety of the travelling public by being the canary in the coal mine, by singing as much as possible without resulting in our own demise. And most importantly, we hope to be the supporting hand for those innocent persons who sometimes get trapped in a crazy system that cannot give them the justice they deserve.
December 15, 2017
Karen Caughlin Murder – Or Was It A Pedestrian Hit & Run Collision?
Any fatality is tragic. However for those instances where an understanding of how the fatality occurred does not exist the tragedy lives on. Such has been the cold case of Karen Caughlin, a young teenager who was reportedly found in a ditch along a Lambton County highway on March 16, 1974.
News of the fatality has been sprinkled in the media pages every so often in the hope that it might jar someone’s memory or guilt into revealing a tip that might resolve how Karen passed away. All these notices indicated that Karen had been murdered. Suddenly, this week, that all changed.
In a story initially published by the London Free Press on December 14, 2017, Lambton OPP reportedly released some photos of the clothing worn by Karen on the night that she passed away. The “photos” accompanying the story showed a type of mannikin, head covered, standing on a bare road, with back turned away from the “camera”. Clearly this was not a photograph at all but a rendering from a computerized video/animation project. The clothes were likely placed on a mannikin and then scanned with a laser scanner. The article reported that “3D scanning” was used.
It was reported that a news conference was announced where the investigator responsible for the development of the photo, OPP Detective-Inspector Chris Avery, announced that it was no longer the position of the police that Caughlin was murdered, but in fact, she had been struck by a vehicle and then her body was transported to the ditch located several kilometres away from the accident location. The article further indicated that Detective-Inspector Avery broadened the probe by “seeking a new review of medical evidence”.
The London Free Press article indicated:
“Asked if the OPP in the past had been mistaken not to actively investigate Caughlin’s death as being caused by a motor vehicle collision, Avery would not second-guess his predecessors, saying they lacked access to technology he had used”. We find this commentary misleading but also revealing.
In the year that this “collision” occurred the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team came into existence. It was made up of an number of full-time investigators led by Mr. Len Thomas. Thomas was a thermo-dynamics, PhD student when he was assigned the position and he found the team’s work so interesting that he simply forgot his interest in thermo-dynamics and put all his focus into the team’s work. It was known that Len Thomas would actually sleep on a couch at the Team’s office with a radio connected to the police frequencies so that he could be alerted to major collisions at the earliest moment, thus reaching some collision sites almost as quickly as the police themselves. Len was welcomed by police and there was a common goal established in determining how an incident occurred.
This was not only a singular effort of Len Thomas but there were a number of other investigators on the team who were passionate about collision investigation. The team employed two, yellow-and-black, “bumble-bee” cars that were coloured in red bully’s-eyes and roof lights reminiscent of the Ghost-Busters automobile of the popular movie several decades later. These investigators were equipped with good quality photographic equipment and photographers who actually knew how to take photographs. The bottom line is that these investigators were supported by federal funds and were part of a network of other teams across North America. They were eager and willing to provided multi-disciplinary investigations, all someone had to do was ask.
The Team was also supported by a “Consultative Panel” made up of a number of administrators from local police forces that included the OPP and many chiefs from local police forces. There was also a medical consultant and coroner on the Panel who was also deeply involved in motor vehicle collision investigation.
When Zygmunt Gorski joined the team 6 years later, in 1980, he was able to examine previous, multi-disciplinary cases that the Team has been involved in since its inception. There was no file in existence relating to the death of Karen Caughlin. That would not be surprising given the current information that, up to now, the police treated her death as a homicide. But the quote of Detective-Inspector Avery that police of the past could not be faulted because they did not possess the technology that he did is misleading, in our opinion.
What Inspector Avery had was the ability to conduct a laser scan of Caughlin’s clothing. While that would be helpful in creating a 3-D image,that was not a revolutionary technology that should have altered the investigation. Police in 1974 could easily have placed the clothing on a similar mannikin and taken measurements of the evidence. They would also have had information about Caughlin’s injuries. They could have created detailed, scale drawings of the evidence. These pieces of evidence did not require a laser-scanner to be used effectively in an investigation of what caused Caughlin’s death. What was required was an investigator who was knowledgeable of injury causation and particularly what injuries were caused and common in motor vehicle accidents. The UWO Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team had investigators with such knowledge and could have been of some assistance. So why did police not consider that the injuries they saw were not related to a motor vehicle collision? This is particularly so as she was found in a ditch close to a road and her purse was reportedly found on a road a few kilometres away? Should that question not be pursued more thoroughly?
The present circumstances are also not satisfactory. Inspector Avery has stood up on podium and has claimed that his analysis is correct while his predecessors were wrong. And this opinion has been broadcast through the various news agencies. But where is the proof? Beyond the notification that a laser scan was conducted, what other proof has been provided that Inspector Avery’s opinion is correct? Does Inspector Avery have any experience in collision investigation, reconstruction and injury assessment? He may, but the public has been provided no information about his background. In the 37 years that we have operated in the vicinity of this region we have never come across the Inspector’s name as someone knowledgeable and trained in collision investigation and reconstruction.
Meanwhile over 40 years have gone by and no one other than the police investigators has any information about the exact injuries that Caughlin sustained. Knowledge of those injuries would lead many other specialists, such as ourselves, to provide our own opinions as to the quality and accuracy of Inspector Avery’s conclusions. But that has not been offered. The unfortunate reality is that the investigations of many investigators, whether they be police or in the private sector, are often wrong. Especially when they are performed without a proper, review by an independent agency. Even very recently we have noted in a recent fatal police investigation that, even though three peer reviews were performed by other police officers in the same police service, glaring errors existed in an investigation that were never uncovered because the police investigators conducting the reviews were no better trained or experienced that the initial investigator. Education is crucial but experience is absolutely essential.
One of the greatest problems with police investigations of motor vehicle collisions is that the officers are inexperienced. Few officers remain as reconstructionists in a traffic unit for longer than 10 years. Yet it is this experience which is most important in giving the officer the ability to detect and interpret the evidence that must be the basis of further analysis, including the use of advanced technology. Advanced technology does not guarantee that an investigator will reach a proper conclusion, it only means that the investigator will reach the wrong conclusion faster, if that technology is not applied properly.
While these criticisms are made with respect to the Caughlin investigation they are not meant to reflect on any of the officers, current or previous, who may have worked hard to resolve this case. We simply point out that we, and the public, do not have sufficient information about how that investigation was carried out and how it is presently being carried out. These are important facts that are missing. At this point we ought to be informed how the police investigation seems to have made a dramatic turn toward such different direction. Not only for the Caughlin family’s sake but each of us may be equally placed in their position at some future date and there has to be some assurance that these matters are being dealt with properly.
December 8, 2017
Busy Times Continue Unabated At Gorski Consulting
While in previous years the Christmas holiday season has meant a reduction in commitments to our clients that appears to be different this season. The busy period began in late summer and continues without much sign of a change. As such we continue to apologize for the lack of additions to our website.
Recently we have had occasion to provide testimony at several criminal trials, an activity that has been uncommon since most of our cases have dealt with civil proceedings. However these occasions have provided further insight into an area of the Ontario justice system that we may comment on in the future.
We continue to note the developments with respect to Highway 401 and the protests being organized in the Chatham, Ontario area by local residents who want to see a permanent median barrier to be erected between Tilbury and London. An organizational meeting was held in Chatham last week which was also attended by police and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Unfortunately other commitments prevented us from attending the meeting. Zygmunt Gorski had provided testimony in 1989 at an inquest into the installation of median barriers between London and Woodstock and there has always been interest in roadside safety at Gorski Consulting. As usual we attempt to advise that objective facts are needed to be studied and understood before one can decide one way or the other as to what is needed and what is missing.
We also note that Ontario is embarking on another change to its auto insurance system on the theme that such changes will be more fair and less costly. While we have not examined the details of the current changes we have been previously disappointed on many occasions with the problems that seem to be permanently entrenched without resolve.
This summarizes our recent activities and observations. Again we apologize for the lack of recent content on this website however we remain committed to continue activities on this website as time allows.
November 13, 2017
Road Surface Testing on Medway Road, North-West of London, Ontario Provides Further Validation of Methodology Developed by Gorski Consulting
We have had an opportunity to continue testing of road surface conditions that has been described in previous articles and has resulted in the data shown on the Road Data page of this website. The latest testing was performed on November 11, 2017 on Medway Road between Wonderland Road and Vanneck Road, on the north-west outskirts of London, Ontario. The validity of this data was revealed because the testing commenced westbound on a newly-paved section of Medway Road and then the test vehicle rode onto a substantially aged and bumpy surface that was located just west of Hyde Park Road. The resulting data clearly showed how the smooth surface provided very low levels of longitudinal and lateral rotation of the test vehicle and then once the vehicle entered the aged/bumpy surface the rotations immediately increased to a high level. We then performed the testing in an eastbound direction and again the same difference in rotation data occurred.
This testing demonstrates once again that the gathered data is valid and is reliable in demonstrating the differences in the quality of various road surfaces as they affect the stability of a passenger vehicle. The latest data will soon be posted on the Road Data webpage and it is possible that we may find time to write and upload a brief article describing the testing.
Once again, we must apologize for the minimal posting of news and articles to this site as we have been very busy with cases assigned to us by paying clients. Typically the workload tends to slow down as we approach the Christmas season and we should start to see some freed up time to attend to this website.
October 29, 2017
Thirty Years Since Unsatisfactory Roadside Barrier System Paper Released – Not Much Has Changed
Thirty years ago Zygmunt Gorski was part of the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team that published a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) research paper entitled “Unsatisfactory Roadside Barrier System Performance in Real-World Collisions: Lessons to be Learned”. The opening abstract to that paper was prophetic in its relevance to the problems that continue to exist on essentially all roadways of the modern era.
The abstract from that paper read as follows:
“Roadside safety has progressively improved in the past decade with the development of new and better highway barrier systems, break-away poles, and energy attenuators. In some cases these systems function well under laboratory conditions, but perform unsatisfactorily in certain roadside settings. Sometimes this is due to improper or incomplete application of the design criteria by highway engineers who copy basic structure, but ignore vital functional elements. In such instances, roadside systems which have been introduced to prevent accidents, or more often, to reduce their severity, have in fact contributed to increasing the severity of collisions at certain locations. This paper identifies some of the missing or mis-applied design criteria which are leading to real-world failure of techniques that have been laboratory proven in most cases. Only by investigating real-world accidents to understand better the deviations from test conditions, or to identify obvious inattention in anticipating the kinematics of errant vehicles, can useful information be collected to assist the designer and construction and maintenance teams.”
As a Transport Canada funded research unit the UWO MDAI team did not have a stake in any decision-making regarding liability for collision consequences thus our opinions were truly independent of that bias. Even 30 years ago criticisms were expressed by certain parties representing the interests of those who might be held liable for the unsatisfactory performance or roadside systems. Over the years that has not changed. To this day, police are trained in a variety of roadway safety issues focused on the impairment, distraction and speeding of drivers yet they have no training to allow them to detect roadside dangers. This has become more critical in recent years when insurers have stopped conducting independent investigations thus relying on the single source of police data for all determinations of cause. Similarly government agencies such as Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have milked down the funding of independent research teams that would conduct independent investigations. While Transport Canada used to operate 10, fully-staffed teams and NHTSA used to operate 50, those numbers were slowly diminished to small skeleton groups. Only in the last year or two has NHTSA recognized that their team system has become non-functional due to lack of resources and is now examining a re-introduction of greater funding.
Similar problems exist in the courts where judges either do not understand the importance of roadside safety, or they believe that an emphasis should be placed on deterence of driver faults. Thus little opportunity exists to correct roadside safety problems when the courts are unwilling to recognize that a malfunctioning roadway infrastructure can be just as lethal as a drunk or inattentive driver.
The bottom line is that the problems that our research team identified 30 years ago continue to exist without much thought toward correction. Here are some examples of problems identified in our research paper that continue to exist today.
As shown in the example below, various roadside barriers and guardrails are tested in laboratory conditions where it is assumed that there will be no contaminants/objects/structures that might be placed between the roadside system and the approaching vehicle. In the real world such is not the case. In Canada snow plows push accumulated snow off the road surface and against various roadside systems. Over time the snow becomes compressed and hardened enabling icy snowbanks to withstand the weight of a typical vehicle. Thus those hardened snow banks turn into ramps that allow the vehicle to ride up and over a barrier and into impact with the very danger that the barrier was made to avoid. In the photo below one can see a tire mark of a vehicle that was vaulted over the barrier and the driver sustained fatal injuries as his vehicle struck the concrete wall of the highway overpass.
While the removal of snow from roadways can be difficult and complicated, there is little or no identification provided either in police investigations or through public news media outlets to allow for an assessment whether snow removal could have been achieved in a safer manner.
Another problem involves the proper management of collision energy by guardrail systems positioned next to concrete bridge abutments. The photo below shows Dr. Robert Green, a coroner, and member of the UWO MDAI team, explaining how the guardrail at Dodd’s Creek was not properly attached to the concrete bridge abutment. As a result a vehicle which struck the barrier, caused the rail to be displaced and this channeled the vehicle directly into the stiff concrete abutment. The inquest resulting from this inquiry led to requirements that all guardrail systems adjacent to such stiff abutments be properly anchored and stiffened upon approach to the abutment. While this became mandatory, we have observed a number of incidents where proper anchorage did not exist, fatalities occurred, but no official investigation identified the existence of this threat.
Another historical problem involves the harpooning of vehicles by various roadside barriers. The example shown below occurred on Highway 4, northwest of London Ontario when a southbound car entered into a loss-of-control rotation (yaw) at a curve and downgrade and slid into the end of a guardrail resulting in fatal injuries to the driver. The designers, installers and maintainers of such roadside systems must be vigilant to instances where such harpooning can occur. Yet in recent years there have been problems reported in the news media where a certain type of guardrail terminal, the ET-PLUS, manufactured by Trinity Highway Products in Dallas, Texas, was the subject of concerns for causing the harpooning of impacting vehicles. While the U.S. Highway Safety Administration reportedly assembled a group of experts to evaluate whether the terminals posed an unusually high risk of malfunction, the analysis used insufficient data and questionable practices such that an independent assessment of the risk became questionable. What is apparent is that Trinity Highway Products was the dominant player in the supply of guardrail terminals before the controversy erupted but since then they appear to be losing market share as many municipalities and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation have begun installing terminals manufactured by other businesses. Yet there has been no proper study of any of the terminals to inform the public what system is safer than another.
In another harpooning incident the photo below shows the interior of a school bus which had collided with a chain link fence located on Highway 401 near Cambridge, Ontario. The top, metal bar of the fence passed into the occupant compartment of the bus and harpooned one of its passengers.
As shown below, the bar harpooned the passenger’s chest area. The bar had to be cut at both ends and the passenger had to be transported to hospital with the bar still stuck in his chest. Fortunately this person survived.
Unfortunately the lessons that could have been learned from this incident have been largely forgotten. Although the noted chain fence was eventually removed from the highway there are presently numerous similar installations on every part of the roadway system in Ontario. This is not a matter of focusing just on chain link fences but there are many similar structures on the roadsides throughout Ontario. These dangers remain unreported.
October 27, 2017
Not Busy Enough To Ignore Hwy 401 Safety Developments
While we continue to be tied up with cases for which we have been hired by individual clients we cannot ignore the recent developments that have occurred regarding the safety of heavy trucks on major expressways such as Highway 401 in southern Ontario.
It seems many collision reconstruction “experts” including police officials who have likely had very little training or experience in collision reconstruction have stepped up to the media podium and explained precisely why fatal collisions involving heavy trucks are occurring. These experts claim that there is only one factor – driver error and inattention – and punishment of truck drivers is the only solution.
We offer a quote from an expert in human perception-reaction who has conducted a large number of studies in the realm of the ability of drivers to detect, recognize and avoid roadway dangers:
“…Using 2.5 seconds for a poorly recognizable object, such as a slow moving truck (travelling in the same direction) on a limited access highway or a pedestrian at night…would be worthless because it doesn’t measure or represent any time period. It does not account for human threshold contrast detection, it does not account for pattern recognition and it does not account for relative velocity threshold detection limitations of humans. In those type, 2.5 seconds may be a gross underestimation of the time needed.”
Yet the above expert also opined that the average following distance of one vehicle behind another is typically 1 to 3 seconds. Yes, this is a problem but it is also a reality, not of one individual driver, but of us all who drive along limited-access highways.
The problem that is not being addressed is that drivers on these limited access highways are used to driving for many minutes or hours at a constant speed without interference and an expectation is developed that traffic will continue to move as it has done so previously. Situations occur when those expectations are violated. While many drivers of passenger cars are able to bring their vehicles to a halt in a shorter time, the drivers of heavy trucks cannot slow down in the same time and distance. The problem is aggravated when drivers of light vehicles steer into a truck driver’s path without providing sufficient time and distance ahead. And such actions are common when other drivers are surprised by a sudden reduction in traffic speeds. The bottom line is that fault is often shared by many drivers, not just the demon truck drivers who are being presently blamed.
There is a continual refusal by police and news media to inform the public that many of these fatal truck collisions are related to areas of road construction where lanes are blocked and sudden motion stoppages occur. While road construction must occur, those responsible for the set-up of the lane closures must be prepared to anticipate that this will likely cause traffic problems and they cannot simply leave those problems to be handled by the drivers themselves. Ultimately a method has to be developed where more warning is provided to drivers when they are approaching an area where traffic has come to a complete stop, or is beginning to slow rapidly. Until automatic braking takes hold in the general population of vehicle fleets these problems need to be addressed with science, not with accusations and insults against a specific minority of drivers by persons who do not have a clear understanding of the problem.
October 6, 2017
Our Apologies Continue – Too Busy To Post
It continues to be a busy time at Gorski Consulting. While interesting collision reconstruction and roadway safety issues exist we are tied down with issues related to servicing the needs of individual clients for our services. This means fewer opportunities to post items on our website.
One issue that has become quite live in recent months has been the development of criminal activities using a motor vehicle. This is an obvious concern to everyone in these times where persons of unstable thought and actions also have control of deadly weapons other than guns. We at Gorski Consulting have no immediate solution or helpful advice to give at this time; regrettably. While upon a meeting with another colleague who was dealing with safety material for children he mentioned the catchy phrase “Don’t Trust the Driver”. While he was referring to the notion that children should pay attention to traffic around them instead of assuming that all will be well, it seems to us that in these unfortunate times we need to also become more cautious about the criminal intentions of drivers in general.
September 26, 2017
Busy Time Means Fewer Website Postings
We apologize for our lack of recent postings to this website. As a collision reconstruction and safety research business our primary work is in handling requests to evaluate cases for our clients. This past month or more we have experienced a higher than normal workload and therefore there has been less time to provide discussions and content on our website. Rest assured that our business has ebbs and flows like all do and when our commitments subside there will be further postings on this site.
September 1, 2017
Possible Deaths From Drowning and Fires Continue to be Kept From Public Knowledge
Fatality and injury rates have been rising in the last couple of years just as new, advanced technologies would be expected to be bringing those rates down. To date official explanations of these perplexing trends have been toward suggesting that the improved economy was the result of this bad news. Yet, when death and injury rates were falling during poor economic times there was little propaganda that the falling rates were due to those worsening economic factors. It was said to be due to the great work by vehicle manufacturers, roadway maintenance/design and the work of law enforcement battling drinking driving.
Now, the latest propaganda is that distracted driving is the result of these rising death and injury rates. The product being sold to the public is that there is a skyrocketing amount of distracted driving that did not exist in previous decades. There is no mention however that in the present day law enforcement can often determine if an information/entertainment device was activated while in previous decades there was no way to know. How often would the police of 1980 positively identify that the driver was inserting a cassette into an 8-track player of a Pontiac Firebird when he entered the curve that led to his deadly fate? Could there be a difference in the ability to detect distracted driving?
While speeding, distraction and impairment are presently the low-lights of collision history, they have also been so, for many decades. Meanwhile the modern age has brought changes to the quality of reporting of important factors other than the most obvious. As social media and the internet have blossomed, quality journalism and the numbers of independent newspapers and other news media has plummeted. While in the past the news was gathered and reported from many hands, eyes and ears, now the news is reported by a select few individuals working for large corporate agencies run by only a few power-brokers. The news item that is found in one local newspaper is no different than the news in a nearby town or city because that news is coming from the same hand, eye and ear. That is the new developing problem.
When developments occur that are new threats to the public there is a greater likelihood that they will not be properly reported, or not reported at all. While social media like twitter and facebook would appear to be the answer, they are not. These sources of news are very unreliable in their ability to report news in an accurate, professional, journalistic manner. They are also very limited in their knowledge of key points of an investigation. They often rely on hearsay, unsupportable judgments, emotional reactions and similar actions that do very little to improve the public’s need to know what has transpired. Yet they hold the promise of being better in the future. Rapid independent reporting using social media via live photos and video and from witnesses present at an accident site can be of great value in informing the public.
At present there are major concerns about developments in motor vehicle collisions that are not properly documented or reported. These being the incidents of drownings and fires. Despite the marvelous achievements of motor vehicle safety standards in the last several decades, none of these can stop a vehicle occupant from drowning or being burned alive after being trapped in a collision-involved vehicle. These are difficult results to report to the public for obvious reasons. However there must be a weighing of these difficulties against the reality that not reporting them will lead to the prevention of a solution.
It the past 24 hours in the region of South-Western Ontario two incidents were reported without proper identification of their cause. In one incident there was a failure to report that a fire had engulfed a vehicle after a collision on Highway 6 south of Tobermory, Ontario. Although the collision occurred on August 27th, none of the official news agencies reported that such a fire occurred until today, September 1st. Why? Was the fire related to the deaths? Was it an inevitable fact that a fire should have taken place? Did the fire-engulfed vehicle meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards? Did anyone bother to ask?
In the second incident that reportedly occurred on Grey County Road 4 earlier this morning, a female driver was reportedly found deceased after her vehicle rolled down a steep embankment and landed in a pond. Did this driver drown? If so why did she drown? Was she unable to escape her vehicle? Was there sufficient road design and roadside protection to prevent the vehicle from entering the water? Who will ask these important questions and report to the public about their significance and importance? Will it be left to twitter and facebook?
August 30, 2017
Insufficient Explanation For Cause Of Fatal Injuries In Median Crossover Collision On Highway 401 Near Currie Road
The obvious response is that it is too early in the investigation to know what happened. However, that is not the point.
Information about how a mother and her 5-year-old daughter sustained their fatal injuries will likely never be provided, like it never is provided.
Police suffer from a biased belief that their sole concern must be to protect the privacy of individuals, their families and relations while failing to understand that there are other important matters that need to be considered. The public also has a stake in these matters as the public is the future victim of the next fatal collision that will occur. When unexplained fatalities occur the public is misinformed, no less so that if a container of drugs does not contain warning labels or if a physician fails to inform a patient of the possible fatal consequences of commencing a certain medical procedure.
At face value, a median crossover collision raises little concern to the public as they would expect that vehicles travelling at highway speed should collide at highway speed and that fatalities in such incidents are inevitable. This is especially true when those persons responsible for evaluating the significance of what has occurred have not raised any concerns. The public has also been informed, in previous decades, of the numerous median crossover fatalities that occurred on Highway 401 in the 1980s before a concrete median was erected in the 1990s. No longer is the official news media willing to publish any additional concerns about median cross-overs.
Zygmunt Gorski was one of the investigators who gave testimony at the 1989 inquest into the Highway 401 median crossovers. As an Accident Investigator with the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team Gorski provided the results of the team’s studies of motor vehicle fatal, injury and damage collisions that were occurring from median cross-overs. Some of the key points that were raised included a review of the incidence of vehicle rollover, the departure angles at which vehicles left the paved surface, the distance that vehicles travelled along that departure angle and the distance that vehicles travelled perpendicular to the asphalt edge of the lane in which they were travelling.
The UWO Multi-Disciplinary Team’s analysis of Highway 401 median cross-over collisions involved 5 years of data from April, 1984 through to April 1989. The study area was comprised of Highway 401 at the border of Kent and Elgin Counties ( i.e. the west edge of the patrol area of the Dutton Detachment of the OPP) through to the border of Oxford and Waterloo Counties (i.e. east edge of area patrolled by Woodstock Detachment of the OPP). Sixty seven collisions were documented in that period. Of those 67, 38 were fatal collisions and 29 were personal injury collisions. Of those 67 collisions, 27 involved vehicles that travelled through the median while another 13 came to a stop within the median. Of the 27 vehicles that passed through the median, 20 of those were fatal collisions. Of the 27 incidents where a vehicle passed through the median 18 of those were located in the narrow portion of the median between Highway 402 and Highway 2 in Woodstock, Ontario.
Of particular concern was that the median of Highway 401 was only approximately 8 metres wide in the zone stretching from Highway 402 through to Woodstock, Ontario. That provided the opportunity for many vehicles to cross the narrow median and collide with opposing vehicles at high speed and with lessened opportunity for collision avoidance. But there is a substantial difference in the make-up of the median near the present double-fatal collision at Currie Road that the public is unaware of. Also the safety standards available on present day vehicles are superior to what was available 30 years ago. There are other factors such the vehicle mass ratios and occupant restraint in the present collision that required clarification. None of these points are ever likely to be revealed to the public.
August 19, 2017
Police Warning Regarding Inappropriate Social Media Posting of Crash Scenes Is Itself Inappropriate
Police and official news media outlets themselves should evaluate the appropriateness of their use of wording such as “warning” in advising the pubic what is acceptable in public discussion on social media. In the last couple of days almost all major news outlets published or aired comments made by police that posting of video and still photographs of collision scenes was inappropriate and this was a warning to stop this behavior. While there are elements to the comments that are legitimate the general tone of the message was itself inappropriate.
Police have no right warning the public about what information they should share publicly about events that affect the public. Police can advise however that there is a need to be aware how public discussions can become insensitive and this is obvious in all areas of social media where the true nature of a few becomes visible for all to see, however the names of those posters are hidden. The posting of information about collisions is only a part of this general issue.
A narrow and biased discussion was provided by police and official news media that it is inappropriate for the public to take video and photos of a collision scene and air them on social media before police have had an opportunity to inform next of kin of a death. In our view there is a narrow difference between a family member being informed immediately via live, or almost live, media as opposed to waiting several hours or more to be officially informed of a tragic outcome by police investigators. The news is not any better for that family member of when the information is received. Posters of such information need to be reminded however that there are family members involved and they need to consider how the information should be posted.
What police and official news agencies have failed to indicate is the importance of such independent and immediate documentation in determining how and why a collision occurred. As technical analysts of these tragic events Gorski Consulting must frequently use the evidence collected by police investigators to provide an opinion as to how a collision occurred and who was at fault. On a continuous basis we are faced with incidents where police investigators have failed to document crucial evidence that would have made a major impact in the analysis. Yet police are the only ones who are allowed to document that evidence, often with the exclusion of even basic documentation by official news media. This presents a problem because there are many instances where police investigators do not appreciate what it is that they should be documenting, what purpose that evidence serves and often they do not have the lengthy experience needed to recognize important evidence when they see it. This is not meant to be a blanket statement for all police involved as they are many excellent personnel in that mix. However, the frequency with which we see these issues recurring leads us to make this comment.
Independent, random photos and video taken by witnesses and bystanders can be the important key to uncovering a crucial fact that was missed by official investigators. Rather than victimizing family members such evidence could actually provide essential help to those family members in explaining for them why and how the tragedy occurred. Unfortunately we have been contacted by frustrated family members who have tried in vain to have explanations provided to them by police who sometimes express the attitude that “It is what it is because I say that it is!” In many instances such attitudes originate because the police investigator has not uncovered an explanation yet they have been placed in the official position of the expert who is depended upon to have that explanation. When that police expert is unable to provide an explanation it is left to post-hoc experts and investigators to re-examine the issue, sometimes many years after the fact, when it is no longer possible to retrieve any additional evidence. It becomes crucial in these instances to have on-site information other than what the police expert thought was necessary.
In the view of Gorski Consulting, the use of large-scale public news outlets by police and official news agencies to suggest that public posting of collision scenes on social media is somehow unlawful is itself inappropriate and provides a biased slant on this activity. We advise the public that they can play an important role in uncovering how and why tragic events occurred however, as always, they need to do so with sensitivity. All actions cannot be pleasing, or perceived as helpful to everyone, however the negative impact can be minimized with some forethought.
August 18, 2017
Another OPP Officer Dragged By Escaping Vehicle – A Dangerous Outcome & Questions Regarding Police Protection & Training
It has been reported that a Middlesex County OPP officer was dragged by a fleeing vehicle during a traffic stop in the parking lot of a hotel on Exeter Road near Wellington Road in London, Ontario. Four persons were in the vehicle at the time and the officer had learned that the vehicle had been stolen. Details of the incident were not made available except that the driver failed to comply with directions to turn off his vehicle, a 2014 Ford Edge SUV, and the vehicle was reversed resulting in the officer being dragged during that motion.
Gorski Consulting was involved in a detailed study of a previous incident where an OPP officer was killed as a result his attempts to forcibly turn off the ignition of a vehicle in which the driver failed to comply. Strangely that incident also involved four occupants of a light duty van in night-time conditions. Our testing examined how the officer could become attached to the fleeing vehicle through re-enactments of the positions of the persons involved using an identical vehicle. Our studies had concluded that officers may not be fully aware of the danger they may face in such incidents and proper training must be a key component to preventing future tragedies.
A vehicle that is stopped with the motor running is no different that if a driver had a loaded gun in his/her hand. That must be appreciated. If a driver fails to comply to turn off the engine the officer must take action to protect him or herself from the “motorized gun” that could be directed at them. In such a case the officer must first consider his/her own safety by seeking a location or object that could protect them if the vehicle should be accelerated toward them. Seeking to position oneself within the cruiser or moving into an external position where the cruiser is used as a shield must be a consideration in the officer’s train of thought. But by no means should the officer approach such a vehicle. A call for back-up must be made and deployment of further resources must be made.
Police must understand that they can use their own gun, with judicious thought, to shoot out the vehicle’s tires or at the vehicle’s engine to disable the vehicle. Unfortunately a Toronto police officer who did just that a couple of years ago was severely reprimanded as some viewed this action as an officer who was out of control of his weapon. It was not appreciated that by disabling a vehicle that officer may have protected the lives of other officers or other innocent persons if that driver had attempted to flee. This is vastly different from other police incidents where a gun is fired at a non-compliant individual for minimal reason.
While it was reported that the officer in the current incident received only minor injuries the reported facts should leave anyone concerned about how police are trained to deal with these incidents.
August 13, 2017
Virginia Vehicle Intentionally Driven Into Protestors – The Vehicle As A Murder Weapon
The exchange of heated political views had risen to extremes yesterday, when a vehicle was reportedly driven, on purpose, into a crowd demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Once again the incident demonstrates the difficult reality that motor vehicles can be turned into murder weapons no less lethal than a loaded gun. There is little that can be done should an individual choose any instrument for a violent purpose however the existence of such a large population of large and heavy vehicles everywhere makes it a difficult problem to control. The selection of violence as a perceived solution in the minds of so many is troubling as it demonstrates a disintegration of our society’s ability to engage in reasoned, logical thought.
August 6, 2017
Gorski Consulting Studies Vehicle Speeds In School Zone
The City of London, Ontario in Canada has proceeded to install on-road speed signs in school zones in the belief that this expense will help to protect the safety of children travelling to school. Gorski Consulting has begun a safety study to determine if that belief is valid.
On August 4, 2017, Gorski Consulting visited one of the sites where the signs were posted on Tweedsmuir Avenue in south-east London. Six video cameras were set up to document the speed of vehicles as they approached the reduced speed zone of 40 km/h. These cameras also documented the speed of vehicles as they travelled through the zone where the speed was reduced as indicated by the in-road signs. The testing was purposely conducted between 1545 and 1645 hours when rush-hour traffic would be expected to be travelling through the residential subdivision of Fairmont where Tweedsmuir Avenue is located. The videotaped data is now being compiled to provide an objective illustration of whether the City’s money was spent wisely.
Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks as we report on our findings.
August 4, 2017
400 Series of Ontario Highways Experiencing Major Summertime Collisions
If it was not for individuals such as Sarnia, Ontario Mayor Mike Bradley, there would be no publicity what-so-ever regarding the numbers of serious collisions occurring on the 400 series of expressways in Ontario this past month. Mayor Bradley was the only individual who raised an eye-brow when he observed that several crashes of tractor-trailers were occurring on Hwy 402 near his city of Sarnia, Ontario. Bradley was the one who also expressed concern several years earlier when a vast winter-time disaster occurred when hundreds of vehicles became trapped in snow on Highway 402 resulting in his questioning why road maintenance was not keeping up with the snow.
What is not addressed by official news media is that there have been numerous serious and fatal collisions on the 400 series of highways in the past month with many similarities. Many of these collisions are involving transport trucks and rear-end impacts, fires and construction zones. Collision causation is complicated and there are many factors however these seem to be prevalent even though not publicized by the official news media. Here is a sample of some of the collisions that have occurred this month.
One July 3rd, the driver of a tractor-trailer sustained serious injuries when his truck rolled over on Highway 427 near Highway 401. No explanation was provided how the truck ended up on its side in the middle of the highway.
On July 7th, a young man was killed when his car crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Victoria Park Ave in Toronto. It was reported that the truck had slowed down for construction in the area but no other details were reported.
On July 9th serious injuries were avoided when a car and transport truck collided in the westbound lanes of Highway 401 near Highway 59 in Woodstock, Ontario. The car sustained extensive damage to its roof area likely from interaction with the truck’s trailer. It was reported that a third vehicle, a pick-up truck, may have made an unsafe lane change resulting in the avoidance actions of the other drivers. It was mere luck that nothing worse developed.
On July 11th, another collision between a tractor-trailer and car in the eastbound lanes of Highway 407 near Milton, Ontario resulted in a man being air-lifted to hospital in serious condition. The truck reportedly burst into flames but the fire was contained by fire personnel. Nothing was said about why the fire occurred as if this was a commonplace occurrence that was of no importance.
On July 13th, two separate collisions involving tractor-trailers occurred on Highway 401 near Chatham, Ontario. One of the collisions involved a fire. It was reported that a tractor-trailer was westbound when its driver lost control of the vehicle and bounced off of the “outside cement barrier”. It was then “pushed into the eastbound lane where it caught fire”. A photo of the site, shown below, suggests that there were construction vehicles near the overpass. The existence of an “outside barrier” would also suggest the presence of a construction zone. Yet those facts were not revealed.
On July 18th, a westbound Canadian Blood Services van reportedly made an unsafe lane change on Highway 401 near Ingersoll and then collided with the rear-end of a transport truck resulting in an “explosive” disintegration of the box of the van sending debris into a large area across the highway. On further review, a collision involving a lane change would normally imply two vehicles travelling at similar speeds and the explanation for the “explosive” disintegration of the van’s box in difficult to comprehend. No further details were provided.
On July 19th, a severe rear-end collision involving three transport trucks on Highway 402 near Modeland Road in Sarnia, Ontario resulted in the death of one of the truck drivers who was from Alabama. It was reported that trucks were stopped waiting to cross the Bluewater Bridge at the Canada/U.S. customs station. This was one of the collisions that raised concerns of the Mayor of the City of Sarnia.
On July 20th many drivers expressed irritation after being stuck for many hours on Highway 400 after a truck carrying dangerous goods was involved in a collision north of Canal Road, north of Toronto, Ontario. The dangerous cargo was spilled resulting in a prolonged shut down of the highway. It was not made clear why the persons who were stranded on the highway could not be temporarily re-routed off the highway but had to endure many hours of waiting without word as to when they would be released. The official police response was that they “…wished that people would have been listening to their local traffic outlets and media. People could have avoided this mess in the first place and never even gone down the highway”.
On July 21st one person was killed on Highway 400 near Rutherford Road when a vehicle collided with another vehicle that was stopped disabled on the highway. The striking vehicle then caught fire. The driver of the disabled vehicle sustained fatal injuries. It was unknown whether any of these events were related to the closure of Highway 400 from the previous day due to the dangerous goods spill. Again, nothing was said about why the striking vehicle caught fire or if any further investigation would be carried out regarding the cause of that fire.
On July 22nd a multi-vehicle collision occurred in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Warden Avenue in Toronto resulting in serious injuries to two persons. No details were provided as to how the collision occurred or what factors might have been involved.
On July 22nd a motorcyclist sustained critical injuries in a collision in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Dorchester Road east of London, Ontario. Police reported that the motorcycle sustained a mechanical failure leading to the results however no details were provided.
On July 23rd a young woman sustained critical injuries as result of single vehicle collision in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Erin Mills Parkway. Photos at the site suggest that the vehicle rolled over however no official comment was made regarding any factors that led to the crash.
On July 25th, another serious rear-end collision occurred involving three transport trucks on Highway 402 at Christina Street in Sarnia, Ontario. Although the collision resulted in only minor injuries the extent of damage demonstrated that it could easily have been much more serious. Two days later, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley along with his provincial political counterpart, MPP Bob Bailey, were reported to have sent a letter to the Ontario Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca, asking for a meeting to discuss these incidents. Meanwhile the OPP continued to express the opinion that there was nothing other than inexcusable actions of drivers that were responsible for the crashes. The OPP expressed the opinion that distracted driving was a major factor.
A day later, on July 28th, three tractor trailers were among five vehicles that crashed in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 at Merlin Road near Tilbury, Ontario. The collision occurred in a construction zone. It was never explained why, however a tractor-trailer reportedly stopped within the construction zone and this eventually resulted in the subsequent collisions. While distracted driving might have been a factor, there was no explanation provided as to why the truck had to come to a stop as if this was of no importance.
Two days later, on July 30th, another series of collisions occurred in the Chatham area. In the afternoon a westbound tractor-trailer collided with a pick-up truck near Dillon Road causing a 5-vehicle pile-up. This location is only about 8 kilometres from the Highway 401 collision site at Merlin Road that occurred only a couple of days previous. It was reported that vehicles were stopped on the highway when a transport truck ran into the back of a pick-up killing both occupants of the stopped vehicle. The traffic was stopped due to another crash which was never discussed.
Meanwhile, another collision occurred on Sunday, July 30th, near the same location of Highway 401 near Merlin Road. This was another 5-vehicle pile-up that reportedly resulted in minor injuries.
With all the collisions occurring in such a short time and within a short distance it became difficult for anyone to grasp what happened and where. There was likely construction in this area but neither the police nor the official media ever explained where the construction was and how, or if, it was related to the various collisions.
Meanwhile, on the following day, July 31st, another rear-end collision of two transport trucks occurred in the morning on Highway 401 near Avenue Road in Toronto. It was reported that a truck hauling paint came to be stopped on the right shoulder when another truck hauling “chalk” struck in in the rear. The striking truck then travelled into the centre median barrier where it caught fire. The driver of that burning truck perished. Nothing was mentioned whether the commencement of the fire was of any importance or concern. Other media reports indicated that the truck that was engulfed in fire was not carrying “chalk” but barrels of flammable paint thinner. This would be a more reasonable explanation for the explosion that was reported by some witnesses. Given the explosive result it remains to be answered whether these explosive materials were being properly transported.
Finally, on August 3th, a multi-vehicle collision occurred on Highway 401 near Port Hope, east of Toronto. An eastbound tractor-trailer collided with other eastbound vehicles resulting a fire. Investigating police commented that “traffic was slowing for construction at Burnham St., a tractor trailer collided with a pick-up truck and a sedan, resulting in a fire with all three vehicle being ignited”. Two persons were killed. Again nothing was said, nor was anything asked, about the fire and whether its occurrence was acceptable.
In fact, such commentary is standard procedure for essentially all of the collisions reported on Highway 401. Police are investigating and no one knows anything.
August 2, 2017
Latest Road Safety Facts From 2015 Lead To Some Concern
As Canada does not make available any of its traffic safety facts, the best indicator of what trends may exist is by reviewing the abundant information available from U.S. sources. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had made its annual report available about data from 2015. That data is now about 18 months old yet it presents some possible trends.
For example, it confirms that “various sources suggest that about half the motor vehicle crashes in the country are not reported to police”. This is similar to the finding by Gorski Consulting where over 80% of collisions and loss-of-control events were not reported at the specific site of the S-curve at Clarke Road in the north-east of London, Ontario.
Two observations were noted in the annual report, as follows:
-Fatal crashes increased by 7.0 percent from 2014 to 2015, and the fatality rate rose to 1.13 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2015.
-The injury rate increased by 2.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 79 persons injured per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
Yet another statistic is also revealing:
-The percent of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities has declined from 48 percent in 1982 to 29 percent in 2015.
The death and injury rates and numbers have increased yet factors such a alcohol contribution to those collisions appear to have been reduced. So what could be causing the increases?
Numerous advanced safety technologies have been coming into the marketplace should be reducing the death and injury rates. Electronic stability control is entering further into the population of vehicles on the road. Various advanced air bags are becoming more common. Automatic braking is slowly entering into the market. All these features should be leading to reduced death and injury rates, not increases.
These facts are taken from the U.S. experience. What actually has occurred in Canada is unknown but assumed to be similar. Yet who really knows?
August 1, 2017
Highway 401 Fire At Avenue Road in Toronto – Police & News Media Short On Explaining Why It Happened
In keeping with their standard approach, neither the police nor the official news media ever explained how one of the busiest highways in eastern North America was shut down for almost 12 hours due to a fire that ignited a transport truck on Monday morning, July 31, 2017.
Yes, the development of the event was noted: A truck carrying paint products was originally stopped on the right shoulder when another truck drifted into it causing the initial impact. The second truck reportedly carried on into the median barrier where it reportedly caught fire. As the second truck was carrying “skids of chalk” the cause of the blaze is not exactly obvious.
Witnesses were reportedly woken up shortly after 0500 hours by a set of two “explosions” that sounded like a bomb going off. Again, how does the transportation of chalk result in such bombings. Should we now be worried that terrorists will use this mysterious chalk as an instrument for bomb-making? Clearly something has not been properly explained.
It is understandable, with the news media being squeezed with cutbacks, that journalists are no longer investigating but merely reporting what they are told. However there are consequences to these shifts as reflected by the lack of quality information relating to potentially large disasters. Trucks carry a variety of cargo and some of it could be explosive and therefore life-threatening. Better reporting is crucial if needed changes are not perceived and hidden from public view.
July 28, 2017
Rear-end Impact in East London Demonstrates Complexity of Injury Causation and Collision Severity
A rear-end collision on Hale Street in east London, Ontario on the morning of July 28, 2017, demonstrates the complexity of injury causation and collision severity that are the subjects of many civil suits. The photo above shows the aftermath where a northbound GMC Van was struck in the rear by another northbound pick-up truck.
The damage to the rear end of the GMC van is substantial. As shown in the photo below, key ingredients to a proper investigation include the determination of the extent of crush and the extent of any “jamming” of tires that would prevent the wheels from rotating. These are elements to the determination of the extent of kinetic energy that likely existed before the impact and was dissipated via the crush and during post-impact travel of the vehicles.
Obviously the documentation of the status of crush and wheel damage cannot be left to the single vehicle but must also be performed on the striking vehicle shown below.
Documentation is not always easy as evidenced by the photo below where by-standers have blocked the view of the left front wheel and any evidence of it being jammed by the dislocated damage.
Crucial to the investigation is the documentation of the point of impact and final rest positions of the vehicles. Many times the final rest positions are not documented because the vehicles have been moved before an official investigator arrives. The point of impact may also become questionable when various emergency vehicles and by-standers drive over the evidence and destroy it. As shown in the photo below, the evidence of the point of impact is clearly visible on the road surface at the right rear corner of the fire truck.
The distance that each vehicle travelled from impact to rest gives us an indication of the post-impact speed of each vehicle and therefore how much kinetic energy was dissipated. If the only vehicle that was in motion at impact is the striking vehicle then all the kinetic energy must have been possessed by that striking vehicle and partially transferred to the struck vehicle by way of crush.
It is not always easy to determine just how much energy was dissipated from post-impact motion. It is helpful when the site evidence displays the actual path of each vehicle between impact and rest. Below we can see how a dark fluid burst out of the front end of the striking vehicle and was deposited along its path to final rest. It is this curved path that becomes helpful in establishing speed loss.
Other indications of speed loss include any scrapes on the path from dragging structures. Obviously any visible tire marks would also be of great assistance.
The determination of the speed losses and kinetic energy could be made via manual calculations however those are challenging to the investigator who can easily mis-apply the formulations or forget to consider certain aspects that could change the results. This is why most analyses are performed using computer reconstruction and simulation programs where most of the potential pitfalls of calculation are already taken into account. It is quite true that the garbage that goes in is the garbage that goes out (“GIGO”) and many who want to impress the unknowing will use such comments for their own purposes. The point is true that such computerized reconstruction and simulation programs do not guarantee that a wrong calculation will not be made, it only provides the analyst with the opportunity to get to the wrong answer faster! That being said, a computerized analysis is much more vulnerable to proper attack by an opposing expert because the “garbage in” can be easily exposed at trial whereas the mysterious, magical, manual calculations performed by an expert using his or her own personalized methods are often difficult to expose without considerable time and cost to all.
Why some persons escape major rear end collisions with relative minor injuries while others involved in apparently less severe collisions sustain long term disabling injuries is not as easy of an answer as some would make it appear. This discussion needs to be covered at another time. What is important however is that all the physical evidence of the collision be properly documented at the earliest time possible. It is when such evidence is not documented or done so poorly that many arguments and costly expert and legal discussions bring further costs and time loss in court trials. Such inefficiency is of benefit to no one except those of ill repute.
Construction Zones Rarely Discussed As Sources of Highway Collisions
A double-fatal collision occurred yesterday, July 27th, 2017 on Highway 48 north-east of Toronto, Ontario involving several trucks and an SUV. Two other persons were reported with serious injuries.
While there was plenty of video and still image documentation of the event at no time did any police or news media personnel report that the collision occurred in a construction zone, not until very late in the process, as an after thought. This is the process that continues on a regular basis.
Investigating police become the human factors specialists who are videotaped and interviewed with their wise comments that “the accident was totally avoidable” as if there was nothing that could have prevented the incident except that a driver was unusually non-observant. This is the basis upon which national collision statistics are gathered and reported when determining what are the causal factors that resulted in a collision. There is nothing wrong with that process so long as the police “expert” has the qualifications from experience and training to draw those important and influential conclusions. However that is not the case.
The police experts who prepare their reports are not trained in human factors, psychology, or human behavior. They have rarely taken anything but a minimal course in such topics. And this is reflected in the comments they give in their interviews and in the information that provide or fail to provide. This is combined with a police culture that essentially everything in traffic is related to human error or “stupidity” without much deeper thought as to how that human “error” occurred or whether that error was an expected human reaction.
The terrible tragedy of yesterday is an example of a continuous process where traffic stoppage or slowing due to a construction zone is not noted. This appears to be so because the “experts” see nothing of value to be noted about this. To them it is an obvious sign of driver “stupidity” and there is no need for further evaluation.
The problem we recognize at Gorski Consulting is that drivers have an inherent difficulty in dealing with stopped traffic when they have been travelling at highway speed and do not expect a traffic stoppage ahead of them. Blaming drivers for speeding and moving on is not a solution, it is an excuse for failing to correct a recurring problem. Drivers will push the limits as they have since they were cavemen. Risk-taking has always been part of human nature. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of human behavior would recognize this.
What is required in the present investigation is a thorough documentation of the events that led to a dump truck driver plowing into a line of stopped, or slowed vehicles. It must include a proper assessment of how the construction zone affected the traffic and what actions were taken by those who set-up the construction zone to anticipate that it could cause such rear-end impacts. Simply throwing one’s hands up in the air and declaring that all this is due to driver “stupidity” reflects more on those who make such comments and this is clear to us.
It is also demonstrative that Automatic Braking technology has the potential of becoming a true game-changer as more and more vehicles are equipped with it. It is not clear how long it will take for that technology to reach the heavy vehicle market and this is an important issue.
July 26, 2017
Deadly Vehicle Fires Persist While Police and News Media Minimize Their Significance
A tractor-trailer caught fire today on Highway 77 near Comber, Ontario after a impact with a SUV. The impact itself should have been of minimal consequence to the large truck. Yet the truck cab reportedly “exploded”. News media did not state directly which driver was killed however, since the driver of the SUV reportedly sustained life-threatening injuries this person could not also be deceased. The news media and police should have informed the public that a fire in such an occurrence should not be expected and what actions they were going to take to investigate further. As usual that did not happen.
Less than a day earlier, a young female driver escaped from a fire in her Chevrolet Silverado after her vehicle struck another pick-up truck ahead of her on London Road (Hwy 4) near Wingham. This could easily have been a fatal incident if the girl had been trapped in the vehicle and was unable to escape. Again, such an incident should not be expected. Given that all persons from both vehicles did not sustain any significant injury tells us that the impact was not of a severe nature. Thus focus should have been placed on why such a fire would commence in such a collision severity.
In both of these mentioned events the police and media have failed to raise the flag of warning and the public remains in the dark about events that could result in their death. Fires that occur in collisions cannot be treated as matter-of-fact events. They defeat any and all safety features that have been designed over the many decades that prevent injury and death. As so they cannot be treated lightly.
July 24, 2017
On-Road Speed Signs Installed in School Zones in London Ontario – Are They A Benefit Or An Additional Hazard?
The City of London decided to spend the money to install on-road speed signs in school zones. The signs indicate that the maximum posted speed within those school zones is reduced to 40 km/h. This is in hope that the signs placed directly in a driver’s field of view will cause drivers to slow down and therefore prevent collisions in these areas where children could be at risk.
The alternative possibility is that the signs may not be effective in altering driver behavior while also increasing the chance that they become a hazard to impact and also become a obstruction to driver visibility.
As an example, in the photo above, the driver of the passenger car must pass by the sign within a curve and lines of sight may be altered and limited. Comparing the top of the sign to the height of the driver’s eyes there will be an obstruction created to the driver’s ability to see ahead and to the left-front of the driver. The extent of this obstruction and its significance is unknown.
Similarly, drivers may need to change direction from time-to-time within the road, from time to time to avoid an additional hazard. The presence of the sign could limit the driver’s ability to chose an avoidance motion. Granted the signs are flexible and bend easily if struck however that would not be immediately understood to drivers who could interpret the impact of such a sign as a threat.
As shown above the signs are easily deflected with the force of only a single finger. The question remains what might happen when winds are very strong and how the signs will bend or vibrate in such conditions.
Traditionally the installation of signs on their own have not been known to change driver’s speeds. This have been observed by Gorski Consulting at numerous sites where average speeds have been calculated from videotaping of traffic. It remains to be seen how this new installation of signage is expected to make a difference in this historical relationship.
July 21, 2017
Another Vehicle Drives Off Cliff Into Lake Erie While A Clear Explanation Does Not Exist
Official news media have reported that another vehicle has driven off a cliff into Lake Erie. As reported by the London Free Press, at approximately 2130 hours on Wednesday, July 20th, 2017 a GMC Safari Van was drove into Lake Erie “near the town of Essex”. The problem is that the Town of Essex is about 19 kilometres away from Lake Erie and it makes it difficult to understand how that distance can be termed “near” anything.
A quote from the Essex County OPP detachment commander Glen Millar “applauded the quick thinking of this officers”. Millar reportedly stated “The immediate response by three Essex County OPP members to enter into Lake Erie to rescue this individual is significant and speaks to their professionalism”. Given that the response was “immediate” it would imply that the police were present shortly after the vehicle entered the water though it was not reported how the police were notified of the vehicle’s plunge or how the coincidence occurred that they were at the location where the vehicle plunged off the cliff.
It is less than a month ago that on June 23, 2017 another vehicle plunged off a cliff south of Aylmer, Ontario shortly after police began to pursue it. In that incident the official news media also reported an unusual time-line for how events unfolded. At 1630 police began to follow the vehicle near the intersection of Springfield Road and Nova Scotia Line which was only about 1.3 kilometres away from where the vehicle eventually drove off the cliff. Yet at 1643 hours the officer attempted to stop the vehicle when he observed that a package had been tossed from the vehicle. The officer reportedly pick-up the package and then was informed by a witness that the vehicle had driven off the cliff. There was this 13 minute delay between 1630 and 1643 hours which is puzzling since it is not clear where the vehicles could have been as both were reportedly 1.3 kilometres away from the cliff at 1630 hours. At a speed of 80 km/h, or 22.2 metres per second, it would take just over 58 seconds to travel from the noted intersection to the cliff. In this case , the driver of the vehicle was deceased.
As everyone relies on the official news media to get a clear understanding of how these events actually unfolded this confusion about locations and times lines is not helpful.
July 20, 2017
Observed Average Speeds On Highway 401 – One Ingredient of a Deadly Recipe
Anyone who has travelled along some parts of the busiest expressway in Canada will recognize that the average speed of vehicles on Highway 401 is higher than the posted speed. But how much faster? Gorski Consulting conducted an observational study and has some results in the latest article posted to the Articles page of this website.
July 18, 2017
Motorcycle Collisions “Demonstrate” A Dangerous Problem – But To Whom?
There as been a recent rash of serious and fatal motorcycle collisions in South-Western Ontario. This is not totally unexpected as the summer season has been historically known for such increases. However the numbers and the situations in which they occur demonstrates the danger that has been ever present.
A little more than two weeks ago a motorcyclist was killed on Elgin Road near Dorchester Ontario without any specific information with respect to how it occurred. The lack of an indication by official news media that another vehicle was involved indicates that this was a single vehicle incident, possibly with the involvement of a loss-of-control as the motorcycle was reported to be driven into a ditch. It is highly likely that this description does not indicate what actually occurred.
On July 2, 2017 a motorcyclist was injured in a collision at the intersection of Clarke Road and Trafalgar Street in east London. Again no details were reported except that police were looking for a witness who was the driver of an orange SUV that was waiting to turn onto Clarke Road at the time of the crash. Again this commentery suggests that the motorcycle was not involved in an actual impact with a second vehicle how that was not explained.
On July 3, 2017, a motorcyclist was killed when he drove into a house that the T-intersection of Elgin and Calvin Streets in east London. Again, another unexplained occurrence as there was a stop sign only a short distance away along the motorcyclist’s path and one would wonder how a speed high enough to kill a rider could be attained the short distance and, secondly, how a second stop sign at the actual intersection could also have been driven through without stopping. Yet, only a block away, a stop sign was present that was fully engulfed in foliage and completely covered from view. None of these details were reported.
In the early morning hours of July 17, 2017 a motorcyclist was killed on Ridout Street in central south London when he struck a utility pole near Elmwood Ave. Again no explanation was provided as to how this incident occurred.
A few hours later, on the evening of July 17, 2017, a motorcyclist sustained serious injuries when his bike left the roadway and struck a ditch on Adelaide Street between Fourteen and Fifteen Mile Roads, just north of London.
All these incidents have been reported as having occurred but almost no information has been provided as to the causal factors or circumstances that led to those crashes. This demonstrates how little information is passed on to the public, and specifically to other motorcyclists. Yet, it is expected that somehow these tragedies will be corrected through generalized propaganda about the dangers of motorcycle riding.
July 12, 2017
Critical Injuries to Driver Upon Impact With Building in East London – A Lack of Reporting of the Roadway Defects
Official news media reported that at approximately 0130 hours on Monday, July 10, 2017 a van was southbound on Shelborne Street in London when it crashed into a building at a sharp left curve. The unidentified driver was reported to sustain critical injuries.
Gorski Consulting attended the collision site on the afternoon of July 10th to examine what happened. It became clear that there was no mandatory signage on approach to the curve. Depending on the characteristics of the curve the required signage would vary however no signage existed what-so-ever. Furthermore the painted roadway centre-line was erased at the precise location where it was required to guide drivers around the curve. Finally, examination of overhead lighting with respect to the position of the trees indicated that the overhead lighting would be blocked by those trees and therefore the curve would be left in darkness. To confirm this fact Gorski Consulting re-attended after sunset to document the extent of the problems.
At approximately 2230 hours we returned to the site to explore the lighting conditions. The site photo above provides a summary of the problems that were observed during this examination. The photo below provides some further clarification of the issues. The closest street lamp to the curve was blocked from illuminating the curve by a tree located on the east boulevard south of the street lamp, as noted in the photo below.
The photo below provides a further detailing of the lighting problem. The street light is located behind the camera whereas we can see the tree in the foreground and we can see how the illumination from the lamp is blocked by that tree thus creating darkness in the curve in the background.
The photo below provides another view of the lighting problem while positioned looking south at the beginning of the curve. It can be seen how the illumination from the street lamp has been blocked by the tree thus producing the dark shadow over the curve. In the background we have noted where the vehicle struck the curb and the van subsequently struck the building further in the background.
Furthermore, a lighting assessment was conducted at about 2230 hours and it was found that illumination of the roadway beneath the lamp standard just north of the curve was 7 lux which is not ideal, however readings taken at the curb where the vehicle exited the roadway were below the scale of the lightmeter meaning that the location was in extreme darkness.
All these are critical failures in provision of a safe road while the public has not been informed of any of these findings. The two local news outlets (the London Free Press and CTV News) have not posted any concerns with the roadway. The London Free Press merely mentioned the comment of a local resident that “motorists often drive too fast around the curve”.
In the CTV News coverage the same resident was quoted however an additional sentence was added: “I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for a while”. Yet the actual videotape of the resident’s comments included a further comment that was excluded from the CTV written article. In the videotape the resident is heard saying “I don’t think there’s signs up saying to slow down…” That additional comment is critical because it demonstrates that even an untrained individual recognized that signage was not present yet that message was not brought forth in the official news coverage.
Nothing has been reported with respect to the police investigation other than that no charges have yet been laid and that the van was not stolen.
A curious observation was noted in the London Free Press article where the resident observed that the driver “was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed to a stretcher before being taken away in an ambulance”. Police were then quoted as saying that “handcuffs are sometimes used as a safety precaution. On occasion when people awaken in situations where they’ve regained consciousness, they might not be aware of their surroundings”. It would seem odd that the ambulance personnel would require that police use police handcuffs to secure an injured party as if those ambulance personnel did not possess securing belts of their own as part of their rescue equipment. Certainly such belts have long been used by emergency personnel because they are aware that an injured party could potentially fall out of a stretcher.
While it is still early in the process, it needs to be stressed that the general public has not been made aware of the roadway defects on Shelborne Street and that is unacceptable. Answers need to be provided by the City of London as to how these roadway defects came to fall beneath its radar. This is particularly so because in November, 2014 Gorski Consulting warned the City of a similar situation at a sharp curve of Proudfoot Lane and Beaverbrook Road. In that occasion a resident had complained to the City that the sharp curve was dangerous as vehicles were likely to lose control and strike him as he walked daily along the curve’s sidewalk. A presentative of the City’s Transportation department was quoted in the news coverage saying: “There is nothing wrong with the road in question, not the design and not the high traffic volume. There is proper signage that drivers should follow”. Testing by Gorski Consulting found that indeed there was something wrong. The sharp curve sign was posted with a Speed Advisory tab below it advising that drivers travel at 30 km/h around the curve. Our testing revealed that the lateral acceleration experienced by a vehicle travelling at 30 km/h around the curve was much too high and unacceptable. While the results of this testing were submitted to the City’s Civic Works Committee, the correspondence was never posted to the Committee’s public agenda and therefore was never brought to the public’s attention. Subsequently the City installed speed bumps without any further comment. Thus there is a historical pattern of the City failing to disclose to its citizens that defective roads exist and that the City could be held liable for those defects.
As in the case of the collision on Shelborne Street, if the critically injured young driver has sustained a life-altering injury it could mean a claim against the City that could surpass 1 million dollars even if only for Contributory Negligence. Whether in fact the young driver was also speeding and also contributed to the circumstances has not yet been revealed and those details may never reach the public. The point is that representatives of the City, whether they are politicians or senior staff, have a reason to be concerned and have a reason not to reveal to the public the difficulty that the City could be potentially placed if a civil suit is launched against it. Given that London’s City Police are paid from the City’s budget there is a real concern that such a conflict of interest could turn the police investigation in an improper direction and the details of the road defects might not be revealed.
Yet, in a democratic society, elected officials are theoretically responsible to their electorate to inform them of their actions or inactions particularly when the lives of innocent citizens are involved. When warnings such as the one posted by Gorski Consulting in November, 2014 are not brought to the public’s attention potential inappropriate actions by the City’s politicians and its staff are not properly dealt with resulting in a failure to correct those problems. What is known is that the roadway defects on Shelborne Street existed at the time of the July 10th, 2017. What is not known is why/how these defects were not detected. When the above-quoted city staffer claimed that the curve at Proudfoot and Beaverbrook was properly designed/signed/maintained it is not known to us how the Civic Works Committee reacted when Gorski Consulting provided the results of our testing which conflicted with that claim. An obvious approach of the Committee should have been to explore the difference of opinion and to determine whose information was correct. If these decisions were carried out and a result was reached the Civic Works Committee should have performed this in a public manner, not only for the benefit of Gorski Consulting being informed, but that the general public also be informed. With the revelation that the roadway defects at Shelborne Street likely existed for quite some time it suggests that the Civil Works Committee did not request that City staff delve further in the safety conditions of sharp curves in the City. What other conclusion can be drawn? However there is a lack of transparency that leaves Gorski Consulting questioning what transpired and when.
On July 11, 2017, Gorski Consulting made an e-mailed contact with the secretary of the Civic Works Committee with a request of the Committee to clarify its actions/inactions with respect to our request of November, 2014 and why the noted roadway defects on Shelborne Street were not corrected before the collision of July 10th. In response the secretary informed us that our request was not a “political matter but more an administrative matter” and that our request could be passed onto the City’s Administrative staff. In our rebuttal we emphasized that indeed our request was political and directed to the Civil Works Committee, not to administrative staff. Gorski Consulting was and is aware that the administrative staff appeared to have a conflicting view as to the safety of curves as evidenced by their response in 2014. The question was with respect to the Civic Works Committee and how they reacted to this conflict of opinion and what steps, in any, were taken if the opinion of its staff members was deemed incorrect. The importance of bringing our request to the Committee was that this was expected to be available to the general public as it should be. In contrast the secretary’s approach of sending our request to the administrative staff meant that our inquiry and the issues surrounding the safety of curves in London would not reach the public similar to the correspondence of Gorski Consulting in November 2014 that also did not reach the public. Up to this date the official news media have failed to report the detects that we have highlighted even though we copied our reputtal to the secretary to them. Similarly the public has not been informed of the results of the police investigation which should also have revealed the roadway defects that existed. It is important that the facts of this matter not be covered up and addressed publicly.
June 26, 2017
A Study of the Reported Facts Surrounding A Vehicle Driven Off A Cliff During A Police Pursuit in Elgin County Ontario
The officially-reported facts of how a vehicle came to be driven off a cliff into Lake Erie on the afternoon of Friday, June 23, 2017 were described by official news media as follows:
“About 4:30 p.m. Friday, an Elgin County OPP officer began following a vehicle on Springfield Road near Nova Scotia Line. At 4:43 p.m. the officer tried to stop the vehicle. At that point, someone threw a package out the window. The officer stopped to get the package, then searched for the car. A civilian told the officer the vehicle had been driven off the cliff on Springfield Road…”
To appreciate the content of these facts we need to review the area in which these events reportedly occurred. The GoogleMaps view below shows the general area of the City of St Thomas in the upper left, the Town of Aylmer in the upper middle and the north shore of Lake Erie at the bottom.
In the view above, Springfield Road is labelled as Highway 40 and runs north/south (up/down) just the east (right) of the Town of Aylmer. One can see that Springfield Road does not appear to reach the short of Lake Erie because it becomes a more secondary road which is gravel-covered thus Google does not display this extension in this larger view.
The view below takes us to a closer view of the area where Springfield Road Crosses Nova Scotia Line at the top and we can see the north shore of Lake Erie at the bottom.
One can see that Springfield Road comes to an end just before reaching the north shore of Lake Erie. Note that a measurement taken from Nova Scotia Line indicates that the distance of that intersection to the south terminus of Springfield Road is about 1.3 kilometres. At a speed of 80 km/h (22.2 metres per second) that 1.3 kilometres can be travelled in about 58 seconds whereas at 200 km/h (55.5 metres per second) it can be travelled in about 23.4 seconds.
Next, the view below shows a closer view of the location where Springfield Road ends before reaching the shore of Lake Erie. The view shows the cliff at the lakeshore. It also shows a plowed farm field that lies between the end of the road and the cliff. There appears to be a single residence located on the west side of the terminus of the road.
We can study a further distance as shown below, from the south end of Springfield Road to the edge of the cliff at Lake Erie. That distance is about 75 metres.
Furthermore we can examine the horizontal distance taken up by the cliff itself, from the top of the cliff to water’s edge. As noted below the distance is about 45 metres.
So let us summarize the distances. From the point where the vehicle passes through the intersection at Nova Scotia Line it travels about 1.3 kilometres to the end of the road, it then traverses an area of a farm field of about 75 metres, and then it travels a horizontal distance of 45 metres to the water’s edge.
Now let us review the officially-reported information, line by line. The first sentence: “About 4:30 p.m. Friday, an Elgin County OPP officer began following a vehicle on Springfield Road near Nova Scotia Line“.
The word “on” implies that the vehicle, or the police cruiser, or both, were on Springfield Road at the time of 4:30 p.m. The word “began” would imply that this is where the “following” began and that before that time and location the following had not yet occurred.
So let us consider a reasonable scenario. The vehicle is southbound on Springfield Road and is approaching the intersection with Nova Scotia Line. Behind this vehicle, at some unknown distance, is the Elgin County police cruiser that begins to follow the vehicle. This precise moment is at 4:30 p.m. Let us also consider, for a moment, that the vehicles are travelling at highway speed, say 80 km/h, or 22 metres per second.
The next line reads “At 4:43 p.m. the officer tried to stop the vehicle”. This is where the information starts to break apart with respect to our assumed scenario. The difference in time between 4:30 p.m. and 4:43 p.m. is 13 minutes. What happened in that time of 13 minutes?
Recall that our scenario placed both vehicles “near” the intersection of Springfield Road and Nova Scotia Line at 4:30 p.m. and this was went the OPP officer began to follow the vehicle. This intersection is just slightly more than 1.3 kilometres from the cliff. At 80 km/h (22.2 metres per second) the vehicle would reach the end of the road in about 58 seconds, as noted earlier. What was going on with the remaining 12 minutes?
Perhaps we misunderstood the information. Perhaps the word “near” used in the phrase “…began following a vehicle on Springfield Road near Nova Scotia Line” meant something much further than we assumed and that it took about 12 minutes to reach the vicinity of the intersection. However, how far would the vehicles have to be from the intersection so that, in 12 minutes, they reached that intersection? Well, at 80 km/h and 22.2 metres per second, the 12 minutes is equal to 720 seconds. So at a speed of 22.2 metres per second the vehicles would travel about 15,984 metres or almost 16 kilometres! To put that in perspective, the figure below shows the distance being measured from the noted intersection to the nearby town of Aylmer which is about 11.5 kilometres away as the crow flies. So the two vehicles would have to have been at a location of the Town of Aylmer when the OPP officer began to follow the vehicle in order that, 13 minutes later, they could arrive at the intersection and the OPP officer would then decide to pull the vehicle over. Such a distance cannot logically mean “near the intersection”.
But let us move on to the next sentence: “At that point, someone threw a package out the car’s window”.
Presumably, the OPP officer would have to be close enough to the vehicle to be able to see a package being thrown out. So the officer would have to be within viewing range, presumably on Springfield Road. And this action would have to occur before the vehicle moved onto the gravel portion of the road south of Nova Scotia Line.
The figure below shows the view looking south along Springfield Road toward the intersection of Nova Scotia Line from about 300 metres north. The road is essentially straight and level.
The figure below shows another southward view along Springfield Road, this time from the intersection with Nova Scotia Line. In the background it can be seen how the road becomes a gravel surface south of the intersection.
What is “viewing range” may depend on the type or size of the object and contrast with respect to the background.
As one is further away an object appears smaller in one’s field of view. As an example, a large van positioned about 400 metres from an observer would only be about 5 centimetres (2 inches) tall when drawn on a sheet of paper and viewed at a distance of 10 metres (ten large steps). Thus observing a small object being thrown out of a window at a distance of 400 metres or more would be difficult to detect.
We then examine the next sentence: “The officer stopped to get the package, then searched for the car”.
If the OPP officer was close enough to observe something being thrown out of the vehicle then the opposite could also hold true: that the driver of the vehicle was able to see the police cruiser and perhaps attempted to flee for that reason. However, if the vehicle was close to the intersection of Nova Scotia Line when the package was dropped one could presume that the vehicle then travelled south along Springfield Road toward the south terminus of that road. Meanwhile it would seem unusual that the OPP officer would not be familiar enough with the patrol area to not recognize that Springfield Road terminated about 1.3 kilometres south of the intersection. Thus it would not seem suprizing regarding where that fleeing vehicle would be and it should have been a relatively easy task for the Officer to continue to travel southward toward the terminus of the road as there was no other direction that the fleeing vehicle could go. The wording that the Officer had to commence to “search”|for the vehicle seems rather inappropriate.
The final sentence in the statement read: “A civilian told the officer the vehicle had been driven off the cliff on Springfield Road, just east of Port Bruce, and into the lake”.
Presumably, after the officer had picked up and examined the package he continued to proceed southward along Springfield Road. There would be a limited number of persons who could actually observe the vehicle travelling over the cliff and the most likely person would likely have some relationship to the single residence near the terminus of the road.
The intriguing part of the reported facts is that the vehicle was found submerged in the water of the lake. This suggests that the motion of the vehicle over the cliff resulted in the vehicle progressing into a deeper portion water than simply at its edge. This is intriguing because of the long horizontal distance that the vehicle would have to travel from the edge of the cliff to the relatively deeper water where it could be submerged. In one of the figures shown earlier in this article we noted that the horizontal distance from the edge of the cliff to the edge of the water was about 45 metres. Speed calculations can be made from this vertical and horizontal motion using free flight trajectory analysis.
Free flight trajectory analysis studies the result when a vehicle travelling generally along the horizontal plane of the earth is projected into the air and is no longer in contact with that plane. The earth’s gravitational pull draws the vehicle down toward the centre of the earth until it meets up with the opposing structure (usually ground) again. The time/distance that the vehicle remains projected in the air is dependent on its speed and angle of projection. Various authors have developed formulae which are used by accident reconstructionists to determine the initial speed at the instance of projection.
In a 1981 treatise by members of the University of Western Ontario Multi-Disciplinary Accident Research Team (“Vehicle Dynamics: Free Flight Trajectory Analysis (A. German, et. al.) the authors presented some graphs illustrating the path of projected vehicles based on their speed and projection angle. The figure below shows such a graph for a zero projection angle, meaning that the initial angle of take off is parallel to the horizontal surface of the earth.
Along the vertical scale at the left is the vertical drop in metres. Along the horizontal scale at the top is the horizontal distance (R (m)) that the vehicle was found to travel in the air before returning to make contact with the ground. The horizontal scale along the bottom is the initial velocity (speed) of the vehicle upon its instant of projection into the air.
In our present case we do not know the landing point nor do we know where the vehicle came to rest after falling from the cliff into Lake Erie. However these facts will undoubtedly be known to the police investigators. As an example, if our vehicle travelled horizontally 45 metres while falling to landing point 8 metres (@ 26 feet) then the vehicle’s speed would be in the approximate range of 130 km/h. Regardless of this calculated value, the fact that the vehicle ended up in a deeper portion of water would suggest a very substantial take-off speed at the top of the cliff.
While such a high speed may not seem unusual during a police chase it must be remembered that this is the speed at the edge of the cliff. Why was this vehicle still travelling very fast at this location? The figure below shows the view in the last few metres as a vehicle approaches the terminus of the road before the edge of the cliff.
The above view is from about 140 metres north of the cliff. At about this location the driver should be able to recognize that the road ends as there will no longer be any gravel visible and the farm field should be evident. If the driver was travelling at 130 km/h, or about 36 metres per second, we could estimate that it could take him an additional two seconds, or 72 metres, to detect the end of the road and determine that he was entering the farm field (even if he could not detect that he was approaching the cliff). This could mean that maximum braking could commence as the vehicle approached the edge of the farm field at a distance of about 75 metres away from the cliff edge.
The characteristics of the farm field are unknown as it might contain a crop, have been recently plowed or might have remained untouched and bare. Most likely the surface would be uneven and soft suggesting that the sliding friction could be quite high if the vehicle’s wheels had to plow through some of the soft earth. A range of deceleration of f=.7 would not be an unusual starting point for the estimated friction. Using this over the potential braking distance of 75 metres would indicate that the vehicle could have lost about 115 km/h of speed before reaching the cliff edge. So was the vehicle travelling much faster as it approached the end the road than its substantial speed at the edge of the cliff? Unfortunately we have not been present at the site of the collision to evaluate that physical evidence.
However, this poses an additional question: Where is the roadway signage that would be expected to indicate that this was a dead-end? Required signage would include a checkerbroad sign along with signage on approach to the terminus indicating that the road was coming to an end. No such signage appears to exist. Now the additional complication comes to fore in that the presence of such signage might have alerted the driver and he might have braked and perhaps avoided going over the cliff. Certainly a checkerboard sign could easily be detected from a long distance on approach to the end of the road thus even a very high speed could be aborted with an additional 75 metres beyond the sign to the cliff edge.
So will this lack of signage ever be revealed by police or news media? From our previous experience likely not.
Overall, the information provided by the official news media, and presumably taken from the information released by police and the SIU, is confusing at best. It does not seem to provide an accurate account of how the events unfolded leading to this tragedy. The SIU is requesting information from potential witnesses however they also need to examine the accuracy of the information they release as this has an effect on the image they present to the public. There have been numerous previous complaints by the public that the SIU is too restrictive in releasing information about their investigations and their outcomes. Here is another indication that their methods of communicating with the public, as well as those of the investigating police, need to be improved.
Reported Child Fatalities in Frontal Impact to Mercedes on Winston Churchill Blvd In Mississauga Need Further Investigation
Confusion in the early hours after a catastrophic event can be understandable therefore the reports by official news media regarding child deaths in a Mercedes collision on Winston Churchill Blvd in Mississauga need to be taken with caution.
In an article published by the CTV News Toronto office at 0808 hours this morning, 2 children who were passengers in a Mercedes passenger car were killed when a Mazda car went out of control and slid into the path of the Mercedes last evening at approximately 2300 hours on Winston Churchill Blvd near the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) in Mississauga.
This general collision scenario has been played out numerous times where the vehicle that goes out of control slides sideways into the path of a vehicle that is travelling straight ahead. The problem is that, in the vast majority of those situations it is the occupants of the loss-of-control vehicle that sustain the greatest injury. This should seem obvious because of the additional protection provided by the front structure of a car versus the lack of such protection in the side of the loss-of-control vehicle. What is of additional concern is that the fatalities occurred to children that should have been properly restrained by child seats and booster cushions. Children restrained in such proper devices are even more protected than any other occupant in a frontal impact. Thus these reported findings are very unusual.
Furthermore the on-site view shown below shows the massive disintegration of the loss-of-control vehicle, which should be the Mazda, whereas the Mercedes on the right side of the view, has sustained moderate frontal damage with no obvious structural intrusion.
The unusual findings are exemplified further in the view of the vehicle (Mercedes?) below that was struck in the front end and where the child fatalities were located. Clearly the extent of frontal crush has not produced any obvious structural intrusion and therefore occupants seated in the rear of the vehicle should have survived.
While it is early in the process and problems in the correct reporting of facts are likely to exist, the tragic results should not be swept under the carpet and a proper, objective investigation open to the public should be conducted.
(Additions to be made shortly)
June 23, 2017
150th Year of Oh Canada – Where “Peac” Has Become A Four-Letter Dirty Little Word
Congratulations fellow Canadians on our 150th anniversary of being ourselves.
It was only a short time ago that many celebrated 100 years when we were “1, 2, 3 Canadians, strong and free”. In 1967 the war in Vietnam was raging and there were still many Canadians who had a clear memory of the Second World War, and some who also remembered the “War to end all wars”. As Canadians we were fully entrenched in the United Nations and stood bravely between many angry combatants. Young people marched through the streets raising their fingers in peace signs. Hippies and draft dodgers believing that the only domino effect in south-east Asia was that, once you sent in troops you had to send in more troops, and then you had to send in more troops. That was the climate of our 100th anniversary.
Today the news and celebrations are vastly different. On the approach to our July 1st Confederation there was widespread celebration with respect to a tremendous Canadian achievement: A marksman was able to shoot down an ISIS militant from a distance of 3540 metres. The CBC News reported “The shot surpasses the previous record held by a British soldier…”. A marvelous achievement for Canada. And if we are not impressed then we do not support our troops and do not appreciate that all this is needed to keep ourselves safe.
At Gorski Consulting we have been the observers of 36 years of the bloody hell of motor vehicle collisions. Mostly caused by the tumblers matching on life’s grambling machine but also caused by some foolishness, belief in invincibility and lack of respect for the dangerous transfer of kinetic energy onto our human bodies. We have never gone to war, never had reason to point a weapon at any living creature, nor understood the reason for other’s uncontrolled appetite for power and control. While providing unbiased analysis of how or why someone died we have also been witnesses to the pain and suffering of the families and friends left behind. Knowing that this emotion cannot allow us to be swayed in providing that objective result, regardless of how painful that news may be to those affected by it. We know very well how emotion and loss can twist persons to say and believe all sorts of irrational things. Much like the loss of war stirs up emotions, anger and vigilante justice.
In our 150th anniversary we and so many nations around us, have begun to turn the steering wheel toward becoming volatile, less-reasoned creatures. Peace has become a dirty word. In fact, the additional “e” has become redundant and we should simply spell it as “Peac”: the four-letter word that it has become.
We should stand proudly by our greatest citizens such as a member of our first nations: Buffy Saint Marie. She wrote a song a long time ago in the time of our 100th Anniversary called “The Universal Soldier”. There she gave her opinion that, if the universal soldier did not follow the commands to go to war then war would be deflated like a dead balloon. There will always be deranged leaders but they only gain importance when they have a sufficient following of the masses who have lost their ability to think rationally. It was the assassination of a single Grand Duke in the Balkans that led to the First World War where millions of universal soldiers charged each other to gain a fews yards land. Land that now accompanies them with a million poppies.
We cannot remain passive in all instances but 150 years in a lot older than the 4-year-old playing “guns” in the family backyard. When we are asked to be impressed by the killing of another human being from a distance of 3540 metres we should be certain that the ultimate goal is truly for our safety and peace for us all.
Peace is what we wish to all on this 150th Confereration Day. May you search for it and find it, pass it on to other nations and to your children and grand-children.
June 19, 2017
Automobiles As Instruments of Terror – The Reality Is Not Pretty or Easy
While the public is used to reports of the insane occurrences of innocent persons being killed through various bombings, chemical warfare and more legitimate methods of mass murder, the use of the automobile for that purpose has gained in recent popularity and media attention. In recent days in June of 2017 there have been a number of “successful” actions of mowing down innocent pedestrians by way of the common automobile. Setting aside the twisted political logic of ending the life of someone who may have nothing to do with anything, the official response has been that these actions will be defeated and the public should resolvedly carry on.
From what we have observed belief in the notion that these executions will be stopped is as useful as dreaming of the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. While the Fairy and Santa may have their useful purposes in the lives of 4-year-olds most grown ups have long gone past that, as we should also do in believing that stopping automotive terrorists is a simple solution. There is simply no simple solution.
Modern society has surrounded itself with the automobile like it has with the computer. If either of these are somehow taken away our society will crumble. Yet, essentially anyone can have access to a 4000 pound weapon which can made to steer where ever and travel at exceptionally high speeds. As the “inventor” of the internet put it “there is an inconvenient truth” about automotive terrorist as there is with climate change. The emperor is never pleased with being told that he is not wearing any clothes thus we do not expect our comments to be of large popularity.
While we do not have a simple solution we also believe that a grown up discussion about the reality is in order.
June 18, 2017
Zipper Merging – Dangerous Advice From Those Who Do Not Understand Traffic Safety
While the term “Zipper Merge” has caught the public’s attention little questioning has been carried forward regarding this latest advised method of merging on approach to a closed lane.
The proponents of the Zipper Merge state that it is a more efficient use of the roadway leading to a closed lane if drivers populate the closed lane until the very edge where they have no option but merge. The unusual logic is supportive of the reasoning that more vehicles will be squeezed onto the roadway and thereby make a more efficient use rather then creating a longer line of traffic within only a single lane.
While such logic would appear to make some sense from the desk of a bean counting theorist the practical reality is that such merging at the very last instant is extremely dangerous and fails to recognize that our system of roadways is designed to create sufficient time and distance for drivers to react to a closed lane because, from a safety viewpoint, time and distance is required. Not all traffic will approach a closed lane at slow speed. Nor will the visibility be ideal. In fact, in the presence of many large and tall vehicles visibility of signage and the location of the lane closure could be restricted. This requires that drivers merge into the open lane before an emergency situation is created.
Conflicts amongst drivers already exist as some continue to use the unpopulated lane as a way to get ahead of traffic. This generally infuriates those who sit in line and watch others pass them by. This conflict leads to numerous road rage incidents with little involvement by either police or those who are responsible for a lane closure.
The proposed Zipper Merge will not improve this conflict. Indeed problem drivers will continue to attempt to take this minute and ridiculous advantage by racing toward the end of the closed lane and then attempting to squeeze in the last minute. While such actions could be of minimal effect when speeds are slow, those same actions could be life-threatening when performed at higher speeds. Attempting to squeeze into a lane at the last instance means that, when a miscalculation occurs there will be instances where the resulting collision could be serious.
The proponents of the Zipper Merge seem to misunderstand that not all traffic is of the same character and when large trucks are mixed with small car dangerous situations can occur. Drivers of typical road tractors are unable to detect small vehicles located near the right front wheel and right door of the tractor. But this is precisely where smaller vehicles will be located when they squeeze into the truck driver’s lane. Again, the resulting collision at low speed might be minor between similar-sized vehicles but not so when a massive truck strikes a small car. The magnitude of the problem is increased when speeds are increased.
In the view of Gorski Consulting, the advice that the Zipper Merge should be an accepted method of traffic movement at a closed lane is dangerous and drivers should be extra-cautious during this time when such logic appears to be spreading through official circles. Instead more monitoring of traffic is required on the approach to a closed lane in the form of video to gather incidents of dangerous behavior that can be prosecuted. Furthermore there has to be more done by those responsible for road closures to monitor the developing conditions particularly as traffic back ups become longer and signage is no longer effective in providing advance warning of possible sharp reductions in the high speed of traffic on major expressways.
June 17, 2017
Supreme Court of Canada Jordan Ruling Demonstrates Fragility of Justice
The Supreme Court of Canada enforced time-lines for relays in bringing matters to trial in its Jordan ruling. While controversial, this ruling was re-affirmed in the sister-ruling, Cody, where again the Supreme Court made it clear that it should not take more than 18 months from the laying of charges to the completion of a trial in Provincial Court and 30 months for matters in Superior Court. Various court officials have expressed concern that these strict time-lines could cause serious matters from being dealt with. Yet the details suggest that lower court judges still have the discretion to examine individual cases and determine whether delays offending an accused’s rights are greater than society’s need to deal with a potentially dangerous criminal’s actions.
Beyond this turmoil, the situation has demonstrated the fragility of the bedrock upon which the Canadian justice system must stand. Legal entities which the Supreme Court refers to as “actors” may be viewed from the outside as some irrelevant screenplay writers rather than understanding that these arguments have serious consequences to a smaller community of defendants and victims. Some claim that the new timelines are unfair while not discussing the under-lying reasons why court delays exist. Prosecutors say there are not enough resources while political ministers claim that they are moving quickly to increase those resources. In this new world of “Trumpian false news” no one can really determine where the truth lies, as indeed, some times the truth does lie.
June 14, 2017
Toxic Chemical Rollover Explained As “Mechanical Issue” Is Insufficient
Once again the explanation provided for the rollover of a truck carrying a highly dangerous, toxic chemical has been insufficient.
News media reported that at approximately 1500 hours on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, a tractor-trailer rolled over the concrete median barrier of the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) near St Catharines, Ontario. The photo above shows the status of the truck with the trailer lying on its side on the opposite side of the barrier. Investigating police were quoted as saying the cause of the collision was due to a “mechanical issue”.
It would seem gratifying to all the persons within the 2 kilometer radius of the site who were evacuated that they were informed of the details of why such a dangerous event occurred. Surely a description like “mechanical issue” is all that is needed to be said. The possibility that this “mechanical issue” could have killed thousands of persons was not an understatement however the two word explanation would seem sufficient. Or are we wrong?
There is a further point: how did the trailer become flipped over the concrete barrier? Should no one question how and why a trailer carrying such a lethal cargo could be involved in such an incident? One of the continual topics covered by Gorski Consulting on this website is the fact that roadside barriers on any highway are not designed to sufficiently manage the loss of control of a heavy truck or bus. More importantly we have stated that such barriers as the one in the present rollover are so low that they initiate a rollover rather than redirecting a heavy vehicle. This fact is not discussed and this prevents the general public from creating the mass impetus necessary to cause change. The upgrading of a vast number of barriers in North America is a huge expense that no single entity would want to put forth when there are so many other societal needs. Yet there is no general knowledge or discussion whether such up-grades are achievable.
At a minimum, heavy trucks carrying extremely dangerous cargos cannot be allowed to simply roll over a concrete without a detailed explanation whether a truck combination was used to minimize loss-of-control and rollover. At a minimum the truck trailer shown in the above photo seems to show a suspiciously high centre-of-gravity without adjustment of the track width and trailer length to compensate for that height. The trailer itself also appears to be of a non-standard design and should be evaluated for its compatibility with the road tractor. Whatever the specifics of the “mechanical issue” described by police the public needs to be informed what this mysterious “mechanical issue” was and why it existed.
June 6, 2017
How We Determine Pedestrian Speed Is Critical In A Collision Reconstruction
In the dark and mysterious realm of expert opinion in motor vehicle accident reconstruction the public rarely gets to see how analyses are conducted and how expert conclusions are drawn. Take the case of a stopped school bus and children exiting as shown in the photo below.
Although the stop sign of the bus, flashing lights and other warnings provide the motorist with ample information that they must stop, this similar scenario does not apply if the vehicle is not a school bus. In many scenarios smaller children are not tall enough to be seen above most vehicles. So if a driver strikes a child crossing the road, how much is it the driver’s fault? A critical factor in such an analysis is the speed assigned to the child crossing the road and therefore the time available for the driver to detect, identify and react. So the assumed crossing speed of the child becomes a critical factor in the analysis.
The photo below shows the scenario after one of the two young boys completes the crossing whereas the previous photo shows the scenario as that boy just begins the crossing.
Experts typically look at observational data from published sources to come up with a reasonable crossing speed. From the above photos it would seem that a witness would suggest that the first boy was running very fast. But “running fast” for a 4-year-old might be substantially different than for a 10-year-old or a 14-year-old male. Some previous research (Eberhardt and Himbert, 1977) suggests that a running 4-year-old might travel at a speed of 3.1 metres per second, an 8-year-old 4.6 metres per second and a 14-year-old 5.35 metres per second. Another source (Eubanks and Hill, 1998) suggest a 5-year-old average running speed would be 3.4 metres per second, 8-year-old 4.3 metres per second and 14-year-old 4.5 metres per second. Thus, although the differences seem small, it depends which source you use for your assumptions.
However, what is an average 10-year-old? Is it a boy who is the slowest runner in his class of fast runners. Is it a boy carrying a knapsack? Is it a boy who wants to race his friend across the road? There are many factors that complicate the assumption.
Then, where do you “start” the crossing? In the above photos the driver facing the front of the bus may see the first boy as he commences his run from the far edge of the road. A driver approaching from the back of the bus may not have a chance to detect the running boy until a short time after the boy clears the driver’s side of the bus.
But what if either driver happens to briefly take his eyes away from the location where the boy begins to run: Does that not change the conclusion as to where the “start” of the run should be detected by either driver? Is it an absolute fact that every driver must be looking directly ahead at every instant of their driving? Is it possible that a driver’s attention might be drawn to an equally important fact on the other side of the road?
What if the impact occurred with the second boy? Should the driver have been forewarned by the presence of the first boy that there could be a second one running behind him? In hindsight many say yes, but often such judgments are made after already knowing that a tragic event occurred and that someone must “pay” for it.
A typical, two-lane rural highway may contain lanes that are between 3.5 and 3.7 metres wide. However many local paved roads may contain lanes as narrow as 3.0 metres. If we assumed a lane width of 3.5 metres, and we assumed the first boy was about 8-years-old we might say that the boy running at a speed of 4.3 to 4.6 metres per second would complete the crossing of both lanes in about 1.5 to 1.6 seconds. Is this enough time for a driver to detect, indentify and react? Many experts use “perception/reaction” times as low as 0.5 seconds and some suggest that complex scenarios might be as high as 2.5 seconds or higher. So what is reasonable? Does the public know? Do the lawyers in the courtroom know? And even more importantly does the judge and jurors know?
There are many complications to these matters.
In many instances expert opinions in court are provided and believed without a firm grasp of what the expert has assumed and whether that assumption is reasonable. Thus it is essential for the expert to inform all involved not only what was assumed but why it was assumed and why that assumption was chosen to be reasonable.
June 5, 2017
Where is the Flagman?
The actions of all persons on the road need to be monitored including those conducting construction along rural roadsides. In the above photo a construction vehicle blocking the approaching lane at a location where a solid centre-line indicates that it is unsafe to make a passing motion. The driver stopped behind the truck will require a considerable time to travel around the large truck because the vehicle will need to be accelerated to the higher speed. Note that a typical highway passing motion at 80 km/h is completed in about 8 seconds. As shown in the following two photos there is a worker with a white construction helmet who could have been used as a flagman to direct traffic but that is not the case.
So where is the flagman? We found him. He/she was sitting in the back of the truck, as shown in the photo below.
This is a dangerous situation because of the length of the dump truck combined with the additional length of the large trailer that must be passed by the driver of the stopped van at a location where the visibility ahead is not of sufficient distance as noted by the solid yellow centerline. Factors like these need to be identified in police investigations when fatal collisions occur.
Skating With Blind Trust
Ok, we have seen it all before but this is another reminder: Pay attention to traffic. The above skater was found on Clarke Road in east London yesterday travelling northward in the curb lane.
News Moved To Archived Webpage
All news items including May, 2017 have now been moved to the Archived News page of this Gorski Consulting website.