An irresponsible news item shown on the local CTV News channel in London Ontario claimed that police and “experts” both advise motorists to stay inside their vehicle after an accident because the vehicle is designed to take any additional impacts. Furthermore a local driving instructor was quoted as saying “Don’t go behind guard rails because vehicles can smash through guard rails”. This commentary is irresponsible and dangerous for the fact that persons could be killed because they took this “expert” advice from someone who does not know what he is talking about. These comments were made with respect to several multi-vehicle collisions that have occurred in the last few days on the major expressways such as Highway 401 and 400.
A driver listening to this advice is now likely to say in his or her vehicle when it spins out and stops in the middle of an expressway on a night of poor visibility and poor road surface conditions. Yet a highway like the 401 may have as many as 50% of its traffic volume made up of heavy trucks. The so called vehicle that is designed to take an impact will now take the impact of this massive truck while its occupants are seated inside in the belief that the “experts” are correct and they will be saved. It is completely irresponsible to place that thought in drivers’ heads who do not understand the folly of that advice. A vehicle can withstand a variety of impacts with minimal or no injury to its occupants because most impacts will be much less severe than being struck by a massive tractor-trailer at highway speed. Vehicles are not designed for that kind of impact severity. Anyone inside a passenger car which is struck by a tractor-trailer at highway speed will most surely be dead, unless the impact is a glancing blow, and that cannot be guaranteed.
The advice given that one should not jump over a guardrail because a vehicle could drive through that rail is also irresponsible. Again, one must understand what is the best option for the given circumstances. A passenger car or light truck that strikes a guardrail at highway speed may displace it by several feet but in most cases it is unlikely to pass through it. So one can jump over such a rail and move away from it for that reason. Again, individual circumstances differ. If a large truck strikes such a guardrail then yes it is likely to drive through it and/or roll over top of it and you need to be aware of that. You are safer if you climb over high-wall, concrete, Jersey-type barrier that is stronger. But again, nothing is fool proof and you need to understand where you need to stand or which direction you need to run to when these events appear to be commencing.
The proper advice to give is that persons involved in a collision of multiple vehicles on a major expressway in poor weather need to understand what their best options are depending on the circumstances of the actual event. For example, in the early stage of such an event there is a potential that the impacts may not have been completed within the vicinity of the stopped vehicle because upcoming traffic has not had a proper chance to be forewarned of the stopped vehicles. One needs to assess the likelihood of higher-severity additional impacts that might occur. If those additional impacts are likely to be severe it is absolutely critical for vehicle occupants to exit their vehicle quickly and move, either laterally to the roadside, or over a guardrail or concrete median barrier. If this is not safe then they need to consider moving, as quickly as possible, in the direction that traffic is moving, past the stopped vehicles, if there is sufficient blockage of the lanes that other traffic is not likely to pass the stop vehicles and strike them. But you need to understand that you cannot simply stand around in the vicinity of stopped vehicles on a expressway and expect to be seen. You cannot stay within your vehicle because you cannot guarantee what damage may be caused to it from additional impacts that might jam the doors while also leading to a fire. Too often one vehicle catches fire and soon that fire progresses to others. If the doors of a vehicle become jammed anyone in a vehicle that catches first is obviously in grave danger regardless of the severity of any initial impact.
Bit these are general comments. They cannot be global such as those made by the so-called “experts”. Persons need some education in understanding what is dangerous and this cannot be taught through a few quotes in a news item provided by someone who claims to be an expert. Scenarios must be presented and the various alternatives need to be discussed. These alternatives will vary depending on the context of each collision.
But by no means should the public take the words of the so-called expert mentioned in the CTV news item as gospel. Sitting inside a stopped vehicle on a major expressway in poor weather conditions is the worst advice that could be given.