Head-on crashes: Would barriers help?

<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 13

Schirripa said nearly 300 miles of cable barriers are on Michigan’s interstate highways. Motorists involved in crashes on divided highways “walk away 95 percent of the time uninjured when compared to steel or concrete barriers, because the barriers absorb the impact.”

“How do you account for crashes that never happen once the cable is in place?” he said. “What we’ve seen in Michigan is an increase in the number of property damage crashes, but the number of fatalities and serious crashes are significantly reduced in those areas.”

Michigan is poised to release a 5-year report on the state’s success rate and has no crash data available, Schirripa said.

A brochure, however, on the agency’s website, claimed 13 lives a year were saved and 51 incapacitating injuries prevented by using cable guard rail.

According to AAA, the 3-cable safety barriers help prevent crossover median crashes and fatalities, said spokesman Jim Lardear.

Compared to metal guide rails, median cables are low cost, easy to maintain and replace and designed to absorb impact and gently deflect a vehicle back on track to help allow the driver to get the vehicle safely back under control, according to federal crash testing, Lardear said.

In Pennsylvania, the state transportation department has spent $1.2 million to install cable guard rails along I-95 between the Delaware state line and Highland Avenue (Exit 3) in Delaware County as part of a safety enhancement project.

In Delaware, a fourth barrier project, on Del. 1, would run 2.6 miles from Pole Bridge Road (Del. 896) to the Roth Bridge. But it remains on the drawing boards with no contractor or start date. After that, nothing has been planned.

Weiser said DelDOT has no “set criteria” for selecting which stretch of highway median has cable barriers installed.

“We look at crash data and the width of the median,” he said. “The median on Del. 1 is generally 60-feet wide. Anything less than 40-feet wide would be a candidate for the metal guardrail.”

Along I-95, only 7.07 miles of highway remains unprotected, much of it in northern New Castle County. On Del. 1, 19.95 miles remain without any type of barriers on the stretch from Christiana Mall to Dover Air Force Base, said Ralph Reeb, a DelDOT planning supervisor.

“My plan right now is to look at open medians on Del. 1 from the Christiana Mall to the Dover Air Force Base,” Weiser said. However, no timetable has been set.

Taylor, who frequently travels the roadway on the way to the beach, said she was hopeful that on one of those trips she would see a median barrier in place along the highway.