Metro Morning

Human error biggest cause of traffic accidents, collision investigator says

It’s Eugenia Ambrozaitis’s job to read everything from statements from the parties involved to the pattern of skid marks on the road to put the story of a crash together.

'It bothers me that I have to go investigate fatal after fatal,' Eugenia Ambrozaitis says

Toronto police reconstruction officer Eugenia Ambrozaitis said her experience as a pedestrian, cyclist and motorist helps inform her work. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

With 1,083 pedestrians and cyclists struck by cars between June and September of 2016, Toronto police collision officer Eugenia Ambrozaitis has had no shortage of work.

It's been a particularly deadly year for people travelling the city on foot. According to Toronto police, 38 pedestrians have been killed so far this year, compared to 29 in 2015.

It's Ambrozaitis's job to determine what's going wrong. She reads everything from statements from the parties involved to the pattern of skid marks on the road to put the story of a crash together.

"I'm playing with a really big puzzle," she said on CBC Toronto's Metro Morning. "The pieces are there, but I haven't seen it first hand." 

When Ambrozaitis arrives on the scene of a collision, she begins by collecting physical evidence.

"We forensically map the scene, which generates a diagram which is a physical representation of what is there on the ground," she said.

Ambrozaitis says she approaches each accident without preconceptions about why it happened.

"I have to look for the what and the how. If I can determine a why, where there may be an engineering issue with the roadway or a lighting issue... then I can propose something to the city to prevent future collisions," she said.

Ambrozaitis often uses her twitter feed to promote road safety. 

Preventing collisions by looking out for the 'fatal four' 

Human error is the most common cause of collisions, specifically drivers underestimating how road conditions will affect their cars, according to Ambrozaitis.

"The minute you add water, wet leaves, snow, ice, spilled oil, or small debris like pebbles… you have to take it into account," she said.

Ambrozaitis said police often refer to the "fatal four" when discussing accidents: seatbelt use, impaired driving, speeding, and distracted driving.

Now in her 16th year on the job, she said all of the carnage can wear her down.

"It bothers me that I have to go investigate fatal after fatal, for years."   

With files from Metro Morning

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