Three collisions involving vehicle fires and five fatalities occurred in less than a week in southern Ontario – yet there has been no expression of official concern.

In a pole impact on King Street in Toronto on March 17, 2019, this Nissan Altima caught fire and the driver sustained critical injuries while trapped in the vehicle.

Late Wednesday, May 1st,  a vehicle exited Oil Heritage Road in Lambton County and burst into flames after striking a wooded area. The driver died. No photos were made publicly available of the collision site or vehicle.

On Friday night, May 3rd, a vehicle was travelling near Charles and Gaukel Streets in Kitchener when it struck a concrete planter, bursting into flames. Two persons in vehicle died. No photos were made available to show the extent of frontal crush on the vehicle and thereby enabling an assessment whether the collision severity was of sufficient magnitude that a fire could be reasonably expected.

On Saturday, May 4th, a vehicle travelling through a construction site along the QEW in Oakville struck some construction equipment and burst into flames. Two persons perished. Although photos were available showing the site, a tarp had been placed over the burned vehicle so that no one could evaluate the collision severity and thereby determine whether the eruption of the fire was reasonable.

In all three collisions there was no mention of the influence of the fires with respect to the occupants’ deaths. Equally, there was no opportunity for anyone to examine the damaged vehicles and question whether the eruption of the fires were reasonable in the circumstances. It is this kind of functioning of the public systems of news reporting that hides safety problems and prevents action from being taken.

In this realm there is a police culture that their sole responsibility is the purpose of controlling actions of drivers rather than understanding that they have a wider responsibility of protecting the public from all forms of harm, including vehicle fires.

It is important to take impaired, speeding or distracted drivers off the road because their actions may kill an innocent party, or themselves. But surely it should be just as important to document vehicle or road safety problems that might lead to equally deadly consequences. For society’s overall welfare it should be of minimal difference whether an innocent person has been killed by an intentional shooting, a speeding driver, or vehicle defect resulting in a fire. Yet these same events are treated very differently in terms of the resources applied mitigate them.

Much of the problem is that there is no official agency in Canada that is mandated to take on a road safety investigation for the specific purpose of illuminating a road transportation safety problem. In the United States such a function is taken up by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), In Canada the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) cannot be involved in a road safety investigation unless it involves an incident involving a railway train or airliner. If a collision involves the explosion of fuel tanker truck or something like the infamous Humboldt Broncos multi-fatal bus crash, the TSB cannot be involved. This lack of independent and unbiased safety investigation allows for incidents such as vehicle fires to exist without recognition that a wider safety concern may exist.