Thousands of vehicles, including heavy trucks carrying valuable cargo were stranded in Chatham yesterday when a series of “Three Incidents” did not occur – or at least from an official news point-of-view.

Thousands of vehicles needed to be re-routed onto local roads as a result of several unexplained incidents that occurred on Highway 401 near Chatham on March 4, 2019.

Social media provided photos showing major destruction between colliding trucks that would most likely cause fatal injuries. Yet nothing has been officially reported by major news groups such as CTV London, The London Free Press or the Windsor Star. A brief summary was mentioned in the Chatham Daily News but no details appeared to be available.

The most comprehensive report appears to have come from Kirk Dickinson, possibly associated with Blackburn News. In his internet article he provided a photo, submitted by Tammy Heather (shown below) that appears to show a transport truck that caught fire.

Photo courtesy of Tammy Heather possibly showing a truck fire that preceded two collisions that occurred on Highway 401 near Chatham.

The quality of Mr. Dickinson’s report leads us to include it below in its entirety:

“Two collisions and a vehicle fire caused some headaches for drivers between Ridgetown and Highgate on Highway 401 on Monday.

The Ontario Provincial Police said a transport truck fully engulfed in flames near the kilometre marker 120 on Highway 401 at around 11:30 a.m. which prompted the closure of the eastbound lanes between Orford Road (Exit 117) and Furnival Road (Exit 129). One lane was reopened to traffic at around 5 p.m.

A collision near Victoria Road Monday afternoon then forced the closure of all eastbound lanes again. Chatham-Kent paramedics said an air ambulance were called to the scene and paramedics are working in collaboration with Ornge for a patient with critical injuries. Further details could not be provided at this time.

A third collision occurred shortly after in the same area, but no details have been released.

The eastbound lanes of Highway 401 between Kent Bridge Rd. and Orford Rd. reopened just after midnight Tuesday morning.”

The problem is that the two subsequent collisions may have occurred due to the closure of Highway 401 and the stoppage of traffic. It is the stoppage of traffic which is crucial to the issue.

Traffic stoppages on Highway 401 are the cause of many major collisions because drivers, particularly truck drivers who travel long distances at constant speed, do not expect them, and their ability to stop in an emergency is reduced compared to other, light vehicles. However, this is not the only cause of such collisions and this is why it is vital that good quality information be made available about those causes. That is why it is crucial that good quality reporting be performed by experienced journalists who know how to report a story. This good reporting cannot occur when journalists are hand-tied and prevented from getting close to an accident site. Good reporting also cannot occur when the news agency’s resources are cut to the bone due to the changes in revenue generation that are taking money away from many official news agencies. Investigative actions by journalists which would normally expose major problems or concerns do not occur resulting in stories that are simply based on what police have provided.

The additional independence of journalists that has been historically present is now in great jeopardy of being taken over by informal social media reporters. Social media has been of benefit in providing independent photos and video of situations such as the example of Tammy Heather above. However discussions on social media can be substantially off base and uninformed, leading much of the public astray. Specifically with motor vehicle collisions, lack of experience and training can lead many social media reporters to conclusions that are not in accordance with basic physics or their lack of understanding of the objective evidence leads them to misinterpret that evidence. Unfortunately that can also be true of professional journalists or even investigators who are presented as “experts” in the field. A proper discussion that involves comments from actual experts can do much to educate the public and get them thinking in the proper direction. But this discussion cannot be had when the reporting of an incident is so scant that not even a fully-experienced expert can improve on the quality of the discussion.