"Cable Barriers" are Worthless in Preventing Personal Injuries and Wrongful Deaths
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"Cable Barriers" are Worthless in Preventing Personal Injuries and Wrongful Deaths

Sunday, September 21, 2003By Richard Alexander

"Cable barriers" do nothing to prevent cross median crashes, which always result in wrongful deaths and extremely serious personal injuries.

A cross-median head-on crash is the equivalent of hitting a concrete wall at 130 mph and with cars designed to absorb an impact of 30-35 mph, the results are inevitable.Of California's 9,000 miles of roads and freeways 33 miles of road use out-of-date cable barriers.

Sixteen miles of cable can be found on Interstate 80 in Solano County in Dixon. Alameda County has ten miles of cable barrier on I-580 and seven miles of cable are used for median barrier on Highway 99 in San Joaquin County.

These 33 miles of cable barrier should be immediately removed and replaced with concrete "J" or "New Jersey" barriers which have been successfully used since the early 1970's to stop cars and trucks from crossing the median when drivers loose control.

J barriers meet the standards of the National Highway Research Program. Cable barriers do not and actually cause impacting cars to flip and cross into oncoming traffic lanes.

That is what happened on May 26, 2004, when Theresa Ann Reuter, was driving eastbound on Interstate 80 .3 miles east of Meridian Road, near the beginning of a sixteen miles stretch of cable barrier. An out of control westbound Jeep hit the barrier and flipped into the eastbound lanes, killing Ms. Reuter and three others.

On December 28, 2004 it happened again, less than 12 miles away near I-80 and Pedrick Road in the same stretch of freeway using cable barrier.

An out of control Mazda Miata hit the cable barrier and flipped over into oncoming traffic, causing one death and 3 extremely severe injuries.

Decades ago the State of California installed cable barriers for the sole purpose of preventing cross-median accidents. At the time the cable was originally designed and installed, the speed limit was substantially below 65 mph and 90 percent of California drivers did not travel at 70 plus mph, which is the common Interstate 80 speed in Solano County for cars and trucks, even though the truck speed limit is 55 mph.

In addition, since the installation of the original cable there has been a massive increase in the volume of traffic on Interstate 80 in Solano County and today there are extreme differences in the size and weight of vehicles, from the smallest Miata to large SUVs and 70,000 pound tractors and trailers.

As a result of high traffic volumes, high speed traffic, freeway congestion, and a variety of vehicle styles, cable barriers are completely incapable of preventing cross-median head-on collisions.

Had the State of California and Caltrans, the State Department of Transportation, installed "Jersey" or "J" median barrier of steel reinforced concrete designed to contain high speed traffic in the high traffic volume locations on Interstate 80 in Solano County these tragic cross-median deaths and extremely serious injuries would have been prevented.

There is no excuse for not doing so.

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