Month: April 2016

Sadly, Maria Kollarou, no lessons have been learned

The mother of Akis Kollarou, killed by Robert Taylor on 02.02.15, is reported as saying “I hope that lessons have been learned”.

I am afraid that in fact no lessons have been learned and the incident could easily occur again in exactly the same circumstances.

We were not at the trial, but it is clear how the collision occurred. Akis was following this vehicle:


Picture: Nigel Howard 

on this road:Akis_1

He clearly could not have attempted to pass it on either side. When the lorry approached Homerton High Street, it made a manoeuvre similar to the picture below:


Akis intended to go right, and having seen the lorry move right, started to proceed on its left. Alas, the driver had forgotten to put his left indicator and when he turned left he crushed Akis.

After sentencing, Judge Noel Lucas said: “I want it clearly understood by those who drive vehicles of this type that they must take the greatest of care whilst driving on the streets of London to avoid precisely this type of accident.”

Maybe that is what Maria Kollarou refers to “lessons being learned”, but I doubt that any lorry driver (except, hopefully Taylor) will change his/her behaviour following this incident.

Indeed the driving ban issued to Taylor (12 months) is insultingly short.

The truth is that in order for lessons to be learned, there needs to be someone doing the learning; but in the present system of road regulation there is nobody with the responsibility to investigate collisions with the goal of preventing recurrence.

In the absence of an official body “learning lessons”, Vision Zero London will continue do its job.

So how do we prevent a fatality like this one occurring? The cause is simple: Akis misunderstood the intentions of the driver because the latter did not indicate. (Yes, the driver may have stopped in time, had he looked at the mirrors, but given the narrowness of Wardle Street and the high traffic levels on Homerton High Street, it is understandable that the driver’s attention was away from his near side mirrors). Had Taylor indicated, Akis would have not found himself on the lorry’s left side.

The driver’s error not to indicate was substantial and circumstantial evidence points to the fact that it is quite common. Authorities need to convey the message that failure to indicate is a major infraction; this should be done by two measures:

  • very long driving bans to drivers involved in serious collisions, who did not indicate
  • penalty fines through cameras at major junctions

However, Vision Zero philosophy rests on the principle that humans are fallible; people may forget to indicate, and such a simple error should not result in the death of an innocent person.

The solution is simple and inexpensive: the lorry in question was fitted with sensitive safety equipment – “these activate a camera on the near side of the vehicle. There were also sensors that would have detected movement and when the indicator is depressed there is audible warning equipment – warning of a left turn”. Obviously we cannot rely on a human, prone to error, to activate the warning system; it must be automatic.

How to do it? We have already argued that the routes of HGVs need to be pre-approved and pre-programmed on the routing app used by the driver. Once the journey is started, the driver should have no options to change the route and any unauthorised diversion from the planned route should be reported as a major infringement. We then need to link the warning system to the routing programme, so that indicators come on automatically whenever the HGV is programmed to turn.

What we propose is much cheaper and “smarter” than most of the interventions to lorry design proposed by CLOCS.