DOT to Review Median Guardrail Policy

Posted June 5, 2007
Updated June 6, 2007

— State Department of Transportation engineers said Tuesday are reviewing a policy that limits the use of cable fences to serve as guardrails in highway medians.

The move comes a day after a Cary man was killed on Interstate 40 when an SUV went out of control and crossed a grassy median near the Wade Avenue exit and slammed into the man's car.

Because cross-median crashes are some of the deadliest collisions, North Carolina kicked off a statewide effort to install median cables on as many miles of highway as possible.

There are more than 2,400 miles of cable guardrails in North Carolina. A DOT study estimates the cables prevented 95 crashes and saved 177 lives between 1999 and the end of last year.

But in most cases, the DOT doesn't put guardrails on medians that are wider than 70 feet across. The median where Monday's wreck occurred is about 85 feet wide.

"Our policy is 70 feet or less, and that's much tougher standard than most states are doing and it has saved a lot of lives," DOT Division Engineer Wally Bowman said. "You have to set a baseline where you start at, and that was the baseline we set years ago -- 70 feet."

DOT officials said a wide median like the one where Monday's wreck occurred should be wide enough to slow down a car before it gets to the other side. They also said cable guardrails aren't perfect, noting a vehicle that rolls or flips could fly right over the barrier.

"I'm not here to say that, because of this one accident, we're going to go back and change our policy. But we will look at it, look at the median width and see if there's anything else out there that could've caused the accident to occur," Bowman said.

There are proposals to widen I-40 near the Wade Avenue exit. If lanes are added, he said median guardrails would be added.


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  • Bob Sidel Jun 6, 2007

    lets put concrete barrier in the median so when some maniac smacks into it and dies we can still have some arbitrary factor to blame. Plus this will cost more money, which in turn will mean we would need to toll more roads and people could whine about that as well.

  • Morrow Jun 6, 2007

    Way to go NC, another way to brush off the real issue.

  • Toetagger Jun 6, 2007

    I drive 2.5hrs/day each way to and from work, from just east of Raleigh to Yadkin county. In my travels I have seen countless accidents over the years along I-40, US421 and other side roads.

    True, having SOMETHING in place helps... but these CABLES OF DEATH are certainly nothing to scream and jump for joy over.

    Many of the crashes I have witnessed and seen the aftermath of others involved vehicles which entered the median under driver control (were routed by adjacent traffic) and were forced into a situation which caused SERIOUS damage to their vehicles, and personal injury due to the none other than violent nature of impact caused by colliding with these cables/posts.

    One such case cost the man his life when his Honda civic submarined under the cables, only to have them shear off the roof of the car, taking his head and shoulders with it.

    Stopping an SUV is one thing... but make these cable systems safe for smaller/compact cars should be a MAJOR priority for the DOT.

  • Drum1 Jun 6, 2007

    The 70' rule is a joke. A vehicle traveling at 70 mph can cross a 70' median in the blink of an eye. The DOT needs to wake up and start protecting all of us.

  • Dawg Jun 6, 2007

    The question of "would the guardrail have saved this man's life" is a mute point. If the DRUNK driver had not been in the country ILLEGALLY this innocent man would be at his desk at Duke working this morning. What a shame!! What a disgrace!!

  • lollly52 Jun 6, 2007

    I drive 20 minutes to work and 20 minutes back. No major highways - just Atlantic Ave and Peace St. 6:30am and 4pm. I dodge a Hispanic doing "trick driving" at least once a week. There is a law that says you have to show proof of age to buy alcohol. How are they proving their age to get the beer? What sort of id are they using?

  • goutytoe Jun 5, 2007

    It was just reported on the televised news that this alledged drunken murderer had previously been deported twice. Lovely fellow, now doubt, just here to work, doing jobs Americans don't want to do. Just like the lovely fellows caught with the ton of marijuana in Durham. At least that evidence is now safe with the DPD.

  • Flippergeesed Jun 5, 2007

    Since this cannot be posted with the proper article I will post it here; There should be no bail allowed for anyone arrested for a crime who cannot prove they are here legally..."no ifs, ands, or buts". They should be perceived as a flight risk. If it is found they have previously been deported, an automatic sentence should be imposed.

  • goutytoe Jun 5, 2007

    kicktheirs etc.,

    I doubt that the illegal had insurance - his license was under a false name. When you enter a country illegally, drive under a fake name, steal a vehicle, drink before driving, I think that obtaining insurance is not on your list of things to do.

    Politicians are so far out of touch with the average American on this subject that is it pathetic. But since they are insulated from ever facing a genuine grilling on the subject or an actual challenge during an election, the matter will only get worse. Term limits are a good idea. At the minimum, we could replace the current incompetent incumbants with new ones.

    In the meantime, innocent, lawabiding, tax paying citizens are treated with disdain while politicians get 400 dollar hair cuts.

  • then who cares Jun 5, 2007

    I've often wondered why there were no cables at that location. I can see why someone would think the wide median would help. I think about when the highway is wet or icy. There is a substantially long curve in that area. The speed in that area is also very high. All it takes is for someone to change lanes and force someone over to have a major crash like the recent one. Anyone who travels that area knows how many times they see near misses from vehicles swerving to avoid mistakenly going on the Wade Ave. exit on the eastbound lanes. I believe a cable should be installed there. The problem this time was caused by alcohol and speed but the victim is still just as dead--no matter what the cause.