While the typical discussion of news media centred around irrelevant issues, the important questions regarding how and why a tour bus of Chinese passengers sideswiped a rock cut on the side of Highway 401 near Prescott, Ontario were never asked and therefore no answers were given.
It was Monday afternoon, June 4, 2018 when reports began coming in of a serious bus crash involving multiple injured passengers on Highway 401 near Prescott, Ontario. As the reports continued it was revealed that at least 5 passengers sustained critical level injuries and, as of the present time, one of those passengers has now been declared deceased.
As is typical in such matters police closed the roadway where the collision took place and this resulted in news media scrambling to take long-distance and aerial photos of the bus. In the vast majority of these instances the critical evidence of importance is often located along the travel path of the vehicle leading up to the final rest position of the vehicle. Yet, in almost every circumstance all the news media flock to taking photos and video of the damaged vehicle without documenting the important evidence that might reveal how and why the collision occurred. The critical evidence would lie within the last 200 or 300 metres of roadway east of where the bus came to rest so that we could identify important clues such as tire marks, debris, or characteristics of the road.
Even through there were only poor views of the area there were still areas of concern that were revealed. Primarily a rock cut existed close to the road and there was no evidence of a guardrail or any other device placed along this major expressway that would keep high speed traffic protected from travelling into the rock cut. Secondly, the steepness of the slope of the roadside appeared to be excessive thus taking any wayward vehicle toward the rock cut. Thirdly, there were road maintenance pylons visible along the side of the highway suggesting there was some work in progress that might have been a factor causing the bus to veer off of the roadway. Fourth, there appeared to be a new patch in the road surface a short distance from where the bus came to rest and along the median edge of the road surface. Such evidence could suggest that other patches existed or surface deficiencies existed that had not yet been repaired. None of these important facts were discussed in any of the news media coverage of the tragedy. Undoubtedly, as typically happens, a police spokesperson will stand before a news camera and will proclaim that an investigation is under way and it is too early to say anything of relevance, and the matter will float away from the public’s memory until the next tragedy occurs.
An interesting sideline is that the Mayor the Town of Prescott was actually interviewed and expressed his concern over the number of serious collisions that have occurred recently in area of the bus crash. Mayor Brett Todd referred to two serious tractor-trailer crashes that had occurred on Highway 401 and he complained of the highway being reduced to a single lane of traffic: “Whenever you have a reduction in lanes, it seems that we have these serious accidents”. In fact that is a wise observation coming from a non-expert that could have been made by anyone. But no one has made that comment, or least such a comment was never brought to the public’s attention.
In fact, many safety problems exist when lane closures take place in the presence of a large percentage of heavy truck on Highway 401. This is a simple conclusion that could be made by anyone. While protest groups have called for median barriers to be placed in areas such as at the Chatham- Kent area, no one has really stopped to ask how many serious collisions are occurring when there are lane closures and heavy trucks are involved. Median barriers are important safety improvements but there are many other safety concerns that also need to be highlighted.
So what happened with the tour bus collision near Prescott? Why did it veer off the road? News media immediately focused on the driver of the bus, the bus tour company and the possibility of a defect in the bus. However any collision analyst would understand that, historically, collision investigations need to focus on three general factors: Human, Vehicle and Environment, or HVE. This has been understood for decades by safety researchers. So where is the focus on the last factor, the Environment? Seemingly, in the psyche of police and news media the Environment factor does not exist and therefore it is never in the minds of the public that obtains all its information about collisions from these monopolies of collision information.