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 allfactors 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.