What Causes Crashes & How Do We Know?

Intersection CrashIf you have been following the news this week you will know that the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission has proposed time over distance speed cameras in an attempt to reduce serious collisions on the Malahat Highway. One result of this has been a discussion on Twitter about whether this is a justifiable solution or not.

On one hand we have a group that holds the belief that the major contributing factor to those crashes is speed. They want to try the speed cameras to see if it will reduce the number of collisions. On the other hand you have a group that says before you try this, show us that speed really is a significant contributing factor before we discuss trying a solution.

The provincial government is willing to entertain the idea and has done a road safety analysis on that section of the Trans Canada Highway. The last page of that report lists the 12 most common first contributing factor reported by the police and shows that the top three are driving without due care and attention, speed and weather.

No numbers are given, just that they form about 35% of total injury and fatality crashes.

I've completed many MV6020 collision reports in my career. I know that the form allowed me to list up to three contributing factors for a collision in descending order of importance. The choice of these factors by police are based on investigation, experience and opinion. They can also be subjective.

From my experience investigating collisions, both driving without due care and weather most often have a speed component, whether it be speed over the limit of speed relative to conditions.

Many other factors may have a speed component as well. What is recorded primarily as following too closely could be part of an attempt by the offending driver to bulldoze the vehicle in front out of the way so that they can continue their trip at a speed in excess of the limit.

The government removed the requirement to report a collision to police from the Motor Vehicle Act in July 2008. I suspect that this has made determining the cause of minor collisions even less accurate than it was prior to that date. To some extent, knowing about minor collisions is important in predicting the potential for major collisions.

Major collisions are most often investigated by experienced traffic officers along with collision analysts and reconstructionists. These are well documented and reported. Serious injury and fatal collision data with speeding involvement numbers should be reliable.

If you want to know where the collisions are occurring, you can visit ICBC's crash maps and select Malahat. You will find that there were 27 casualty and 52 property damage only crashes from 2011 to 2015. A small number perhaps, unless you are one of those numbers or find yourself waiting in traffic for them to be cleared.

For what it's worth, I think that you can reasonably assume that speed is a contributor to crashes on the Malahat from this and that along with the current highway improvements point to point speed cameras could make a positive difference. We should try.


speed cameras

  I totally agree that "time over distance speed cameras" should make a difference anywhere. Yes we should be trying them out.

Will the point to point speed

Will the point to point speed be adjusted for road, time of day and weather conditions?

If not a large part of the problem with drivers on the Malahat will be ignored. Some people continue to drive to fast for conditions.

Not Likely

I expect that since the posted speed limit is static, so will the acceptable amount over the distance be.

If they went to a variable speed limit then I could see that happening.

I'm glad you mentioned "following too close"

We are taught to use the "two second rule", and even that is barely enough as speed increases and reaction time begins to be a larger factor.  Given that many devices (even legal ones) take more than a second to operate, the situation becomes critcal.

Although speed might not play a factor in actually causing a collision, it certainly increases the severity of it.  Few people realize that the kinetic engery of a vehicle increases as the square of the speed. In a collision, some of that energy is absorbed by the airbag (assuming you have one) and the rest is taken up by your bones, brains, and guts.  Good luck.

Thanks for the great information and insight you provide.

What Causes Crashes & How Do We Know?

BC Provincial Health Officer report on reducing motor vehicle crashes submitted to the legislature in 2016 reviews the evidence linking traffic speed to crashes. Reducing speed reduces crashes. Electronic Enforcement reduces speed.

Here is the link to report.

What concerns me.

I'm willing to entertain the idea that these cameras could be effective in reducing the crash rate on the Malahat - it obviously has worked in other jurisdictions (not that they report it when nothing changes, of course). But when I read this:

The provincial government is willing to entertain the idea and has done a road safety analysis on that section of the Trans Canada Highway. The last page of that report lists the 12 most common first contributing factor reported by the police and shows that the top three are driving without due care and attention, speed and weather.

then I wonder why they don't anounce some new initiative on the priority - Due Care & Attention.

Crashes happen when drivers run out of space and/or time. Keeping some space around you, and giving it to others on the road are just basic safety, and aggressive drivers need to be caught and ticketed for following too closely, cutting in, failing to signal, etc. But this is comparatively rare, as the police don't allocate it as a priority of enforcement, although all of those actions are offensive and dangerous.

And there's this to consider - speed enforcement almost always bunches up traffic, reducing space even further. 

As for point to point cameras, when the vehicle owner gets a ticket in the mail later it isn't going to immediately penalize the miscreant driver who in all probability will continue to drive in the same manner. And that's because there's no guarantee that there will be a direct and effective penalty on their license.

Furthermore, cynical though I may be, I'll bet this would be set up where it could generate the most revenue - which wouldn't be where it is most needed. That's what happened with photo radar, and why it got chucked out at the next election. I'm very untrustworthy of the motives and application of this tool.

Point to Point Cameras

Wasn't going to comment as you did say for those that drive the Malahat. Nice to be notified when posts made.

First a question? Do you think there could be a bias to listing speeding? If it has been drilled into you that certain factors are the primary cause of accidents, are you really subjective when investigating?

What good is point to point cameras going to do if a motorist wipes out prior to getting to the end of the timing zone? Just because someone is speeding does not necessary mean they are an unsafe driver. Accidents do happen to people going under the speed limit. Ability is more a factor than anything else.

I go through at 15k over the limit and get ticketed. Some of the other cars travelling through at the same time hit the ditch, smash into another car or any other accidents but because they had an accident and the officer will write it up as an accident caused by road conditions get off scott free. What their speed was is immaterial. Sorry it don't make sense to this kid.

Someone mentioned variable speed limits. Complete waste of money. By time they get around to changing the signs road conditions have changed. Variable speed limits reflect what it should have been hours back. Check out the complaints of poor maintenance that have been made this year. Until they drive the road the conditions are unknown. So if they can't salt and sand in a reasonable time frame, changing the speed is going to be just as lax. I know I drive a section on a regular basis.


Submitted by E-Mail

ICBC will never recover its self no matter how hard you punish the public as long as government keeps depleting the corporation!! how about maintaining and upgrading our roads instead of complaining about speeding , if you want to go slow , great, but let other more competent drivers get by,

Varied attitudes to Malahat safety...and out of province visitor

What do I tell her?  My teenage daughter, with her Manitoba Learner's license, wants to drive CV to Victoria during Spring Break. I enjoy reading the submissions.  It's great that people comment on your Malahat artcle, Tim.  Folks are concerned about personal safety and for others.  The engineering company sure did a detailed report!  And I hope that your readers can help me out.

Driving the Malahat since 1990.  It still scares me.  Mostly I try try to keep the appropriate distance from the car in front of me.  When someone moves into my (our) safe cushion area, letting off the gas pedal lets me get it built up again and again.  Added two commercial trailer sticker to rear bumper

~Concerned in the Comox Valey. 

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