A frame taken from video of westbound traffic taken on Highway 401 at Graham Road on November 5, 2018, shows the congestion caused in the median lane as vehicles follow a slow-moving tractor-trailer.

New speeding and traffic volume data is available for westbound Highway 401 at the Graham Road interchange.

In an article posted to the Gorski Consulting website on April 20, 2020, data was revealed showing a comparison between Covid-19 and pre-Covid-19 speeding and traffic volumes at four sites in and near London, Ontario. It was noted in that article that no speed documentations were made for Highway 401. Police have reported that they are conducting speed enforcement from overpasses.  This leads to the conclusion that police are concerned about speeds on expressways. Thus conducting speeding and traffic volume documentation along Highway 401 would be an important addition to the Gorski Consulting data.

As such, on Monday, April 20, 2020, Gorski Consulting conducted a traffic study on Highway 401 at the Graham Road interchange near West Lorne, Ontario. Preliminary speed results were provided in a subsequent Gorski Consulting article posted on April 23, 2020. In part this article indicated two preliminary observations:

  1. At least 16.7% of unobstructed, non-trucks travelling in the fast lane of Highway 401 were travelling over 130 km/h.
  2. The study also showed that 72.9% of unobstructed, non-trucks in the fast lane of Highway 401 were travelling at a speed equal to or greater than 120 km/h.

Following this preliminary speed analysis a detailed study was made of the traffic volume over the two-hour videotaping session of April 20, 2020.

Next we turned our attention to comparing this data to previous testing. It was intended that a comparison would be made with a previous videotaping session of Monday, November 5, 2018. However it was observed that data from the full, 2-hour session from 2018 was not completed. Speed data was only available for the first 25 minutes of that session. Thus it was determined that the rest of the 2018 videotape would be analysed so that the comparison could be made between two full hours from each session.

However, as we began this additional analysis it became clear why just 25 minutes of data was originally obtained. It was because the analysis was exceedingly laborious. There was a large numbers of long tractor-trailers in the right lane and also many vehicles in the median (fast) lane. In order to capture vehicle speed we had to track the position of vehicles in the median lane at any 2 of the 6 camera positions set up at 100 metre intervals along the right roadside. When traffic volumes are low it is relatively easy to capture the vehicle positions in the cameras. However when traffic volumes are high the vehicles in the median lane are blocked from view, primarily by the long tractor-trailers in the right lane. Thus we must search each camera view until the vehicle of interest becomes visible and then we can proceed to make the speed calculation. This continual searching of views in different cameras is time-consuming. At times it was necessary to look through  the undercarriage of a semi-trailer located in the right lane to detect the lower portion of a vehicle that existed in the median lane. So this is why only 25 minutes of speed data was originally obtained from the November 5, 2018 session.

As we recognized the usefulness of the comparison between the two sessions we returned to the 2018 video session and attempted to complete further analysis. This brought us to complete an additional 40 minutes of data and thus giving us a total of 65 minutes. While this falls short of the full 2 hours that we wanted, we can make the following observation that is visible in the table below: During the Covid-19 session of April 20, 2020, we documented 182 vehicles over the full two hours of videotaping, in the pre-Covid-19 session of November 5, 2018 we documented 300 vehicles in just 65 minutes! That is the difference of the Covid-19 effect.

Below is the original table we posted in the April 20, 2020 article.

We now attach the updated table which includes the videotaping on Highway 401 at Graham Road of April 20, 2020.

In the original table we did not have Covid-19 speed data for Highway 401. Although we had completed a videotaping session on March 25, 2020 at Highway 401 and Westminster Drive, we had only set-up two cameras on the overpass to capture traffic volume. So in the original table we inserted some older speed data from two sessions (October 30 and December 2, 2018) at the Westminster Driver overpass. Those sessions have been removed in the updated table so we now have all four testing locations with speed data.

In the next table we show the average speeds at the four sites.

In an April 23, 2020 article we posted preliminary speed results from the Graham Road site which were different (i.e. higher speeds) than what is shown in the above table. The higher speeds were obtained by removing all observations of tractor-trailers from the median lane data. We also removed any non-tractor-trailers that were following the leading tractor-trailer within a time of 5 seconds. This was done to remove the effects of those slow-moving tractor-trailers whose speed is governed to a maximum of 105 km/h. In contrast the speeds in the above table have not been adjusted. So all the vehicles have been included, regardless of whether they are slow-moving tractor-trailers and other vehicles whose speed is affected by those tractor-trailers.

So even though the slow-moving tractor-trailers have been included in the data, the average speed of all the vehicles in the median on April 20, 2020 was 118.20 km/h. In comparison, on November 5, 2020 the average speed was 114.74 km/h. We have discussed the results from the other three sites in the April 20, 2020 article so this discussion will not be repeated here.

In the following table we have included the actual number of speeding vehicles that were observed at each site. This is an updated table to the original from the April 20, 2020 article. So we now have the Graham Road site data in this table. It may seem interesting that the number of vehicles travelling over 120 km/h was about the same in the two Graham Road sessions (80 versus 84) yet the April 20th data was based on almost twice as much recording time (65 versus 120 minutes).

In the next table we present the percentages of speeding vehicles at each of the four sites. Again, this is an updated table from the April 20, 2020 article.With the inclusion of the Graham Road data we can now compare all four sites to each other with respect to how they have been affected by the Covid-19 shut-down.

To us the most prominent data comes from this latest session on Highway 401 and Graham Road. Look at the percentage of speeders in the pre-Covid versus the Covid session. In the Nov-5-18 session the percentage of drivers found to be travelling at or above 120 km/h in the median lane was 26.67%, in the Apr-20-20 session that rose to 46.15%. Let us repeat that these averages, in both sessions, included all those slow-moving tractor-trailers that are travelling at about 105 km/h, and all the slow-moving vehicles that have no choice but to follow behind those slow-moving trucks.

Also look at the column for the speeders travelling at or above 130 km/h. In the Nov-5-18 session this was 2.67% whereas in the Apr-20-20 session it was 9.89%. So does it appear that more vehicles are speeding on expressways such as Highway 401 during this Covid-19 pandemic? From this sample it would appear so. In fact, the increase in speed is also visible in the other three sites.

Yet despite all these speed increases, at no occasion has the Gorski Consulting Covid-affected data shown a vehicle that was travelling 50 km/h above the speed limit, or “stunt driving”. Obviously this stunt driving is going on but it is not clear whether it is going on elsewhere. One possibility is that such high speeds may be occurring on expressways where there are more than two lanes. And it may be more prevalent at other times and days of the week. Videotaping on a Friday or Saturday night or past midnight might expose those speeders. Police would obviously have data such as this.

Stunt drivers are clearly a dangerous problem. In our view some form of analysis is needed to identify these persons and what motivates them to endanger themselves and the public around them. Once such an offender is found and a fine is paid we cannot simply allow them to proceed with their previous activities. Some form of follow-up and monitoring is needed.