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How many deaths equal a cable barrier?


A recent multiple fatality crash in Ohio involving a tanker truck and a bus highlights just how badly our highways need median barriers.

A report from the Washington State DOT in 2004 showed that cable barriers were extremely cost-effective. You can read the whole report here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/publications/folio/CableMedian.pdf

This report also shows that cable barriers are relatively cheap to install. In the report, it lists the cost at $44,000 per mile. The report also says "This resulted in a societal benefit of cable median barrier calculated to be $420,000 per mile annually." Wow. A cost-benefit ratio of nearly ten to one. I wish my investments got that kind of return.

This crash also generated the usual scare mongering and finger-pointing (mostly at the truck’s driver). Yet, in not a single story I read was there any mention of median barriers, which could have quite possibly prevented these fatalities.

Being human, drivers (of whatever kind of vehicle) make mistakes. We need to make sure our highways are as fault-tolerant as we can make them.

Comments and questions welcome.


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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    I’ve written about these a couple of times, they really are making a difference on some of the previously dangerous highways for head on/cross overs here in Minnesota.

  2. Steve Lombardi says:
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    TD: Thanks for pointing this out to me. I’m not sure what those barriers would look like but I’ll follow the link and take a look. Steve