Guardrail and Barriers

Guardrail and Barriers


Roadway departure (RwD) crashes account for more than 50% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities. There are a number of reasons a driver may leave the travel lane (e.g., an avoidance maneuver, inattention or fatigue or traveling too fast for weather or geometric conditions). Over the past few decades, different engineering countermeasures have been proposed, implemented and tested by various state and local agencies to mitigate RwD crashes. Improving median or roadside barrier design is one of the most effective countermeasures available to reduce RwD fatal crashes.

These devices suffered damage to their reputation as life savers because of some isolated unfortunate incidents, however the safety benefits beyond any doubt have been proven by numerous research studies. At this juncture, the life-saving qualities of roadside guardrails and median barriers need to be underscored.

ATSSA has a committee dedicated to the advancement of guardrails. The Association’s Guardrail Committee (member login required) works to preserve funding through the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), a federal program which dedicates funds to infrastructure safety, promote a fully funded Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and other funding opportunities, work with ATSSA chapters and members to develop and deliver government relations services at the state level, encourage members to utilize these services and educate the administration on roadway safety infrastructure.

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Median and roadside guardrails: An essential and effective countermeasure for RwD crashes

Research and studies show how devices are important components of integrated traffic safety system

In a study conducted by the Sleep Education Research Foundation, it was revealed driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Driving drowsy makes the motorist incapable of staying alert and many tired drivers tend to fall asleep while driving, which prohibits them from adequately responding to changes in road conditions—resulting in crashes.

This was the case for Ben Tanberg, who is an electrical engineer who works for an airline company. In July 2016, Tanberg was driving to a golf course in Montana when he started to feel drowsy and nodded off for a short period. Realizing this, Tanberg headed to get coffee but nodded off completely before he could reach the exit. He was traveling at a speed of 75 mph while his sedan swerved to the right and collided with a guardrail terminal.

The guardrail did exactly what it was designed to do: The guardrail’s end terminal absorbed the energy of the impact and deflected the guardrail away from the vehicle. This resulted in the gradual slowing of the vehicle, allowing it to come to a full stop. Tanberg was able to leave the scene of the crash uninjured.

Tanberg’s story is one of many that demonstrates guardrail save lives. For example, since the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) first began installing the devices in 2004, cable median barriers have saved approximately 80 lives. Additionally, the Michigan Department of Transportation estimates that cable guardrails have the potential to save about 13 lives as well as prevent 51 severe injuries every year in the state.

For more information about the safety benefits of median and roadside guardrails, visit Like, comment, and share posts from the Guardrails Save Lives campaign and use the hashtag #GuardrailsSaveLives.

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