Once again police and official news media have failed to inform the public about a deadly roadway failure that likely led to the death of two, and possibly three, road users in a collision that occurred on Highway 401 in Mississauga, Ontario yesterday.
Not surprisingly little information was publicly divulged. A few photos of the collision site were displayed on websites of official news agencies but no photos were provided by the investigating police. This means that photos of the site cannot be published by Gorski Consulting as they are deemed copyrighted. Yet they are essential to the public’s knowledge of a deadly circumstance.
Police provided a confusing description of what happened. Even a later clarification was also confusing. But generally the collision reportedly unfolded when two westbound vehicles, a Lexus SUV and a Ford Pick-up truck collided in the westbound lanes of Highway 401 near Winston Churchill Blvd yesterday morning, November 21, 2020. This impact led to the Ford Pick-up truck crashing through the concrete median barrier and colliding with an eastbound Dodge minivan.
Although the police explanation is confusing, it appears that two persons in the Ford Pick-up truck sustained fatal injuries. A third occupant of the Ford Pick-up truck sustained critical injuries.
News media have failed to highlight the fact that the Ford Pick-up truck should not have successfully passed through the concrete median barrier. Similarly police have also said nothing about this failure. The few photos of the site show that portable concrete barriers (PCBs) were in place at the outer edges of the highway and therefore this was likely a construction zone – another important fact that was not clarified. It is always a concern that adjustments to normal travel in a construction zone can lead to collisions and it needs to be noted whether or not such adjustments could have influenced the initial impact between the Lexus and Ford. Regardless, the main issue is that once the initial impact occurred the median barrier should have contained the impacting vehicles within the westbound lanes. That is the purpose of constructing a concrete median barrier. The on-site photos show that a portion of the concrete median barrier was broken out and it seems highly likely that this is the point that was struck by the Ford Pick-up truck as it crashed through the barrier. Again, neither police or official news media have confirmed this. It is a deafening silence.
The testing of the performance of roadway structures has long been standardized through protocols that have been primarily developed in the U.S. As with almost all highway and vehicles matters, Canadian standards mimic those of the U.S. for important harmonization reasons. Thus it would be ridiculous, for example, to have the travel directions on highways changed just because drivers cross international borders. Or that road signs should be totally different in the two countries. Or that certain vehicle safety features should be vastly different. Harmonization is extremely important for all road users in North America.
Thus, with respect to barrier safety testing, Canada must follow certain protocols similar to those in the U.S. An older U.S. protocol named NCHRP 350 was recently replaced by another called MASH. Both of these deal with testing of concrete barriers by impacting them in controlled tests by vehicles of various sizes, weights and angles of approach. Regardless of which protocol is used, a typical pick-up truck should not be able to crash through a concrete median barrier. If such a situation occurred the barrier would not be allowed to be installed on a U.S. highway. But does the Province of Ontario follow the protocols established by the U.S. Departments of Transportation? Does the Province of Ontario follow any protocols at all? This has not been revealed. And it certainly has not be discussed in the reporting of the present crash which is directly related to the the Province’s safety responsibilities.
These discussions are matters of critical importance to the safety of all citizens of Ontario and throughout Canada. Government transportation departments should not have card blanche to do as they please without accountability to public scrutiny. And police and news media fail in their obligations to the public when they fail to inform the public of these critical matters.