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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Minnesota and South Carolina women’s lives saved by guardrails

Each day guardrails save lives on our nation’s roadways. They are part of an important integrated safety system that helps to mitigate roadway departure (RwD) crashes.

WilsonThey give people second chances, people like Melissa Klohn, and Terecia Wilson and her family. Klohn, from Shakopee, Minnesota, was saved by a median cable in April 17, 2007. Wilson, from Richland County, South Carolina, was saved, along with her family, by a median cable on Nov. 8, 2008.

Klohn, a mother of three, was driving on I-94 near the Elk River and Rogers Exit. Traveling in the left lane, she approached a section of roadway where three lanes merge into two, and where other vehicles are simultaneously entering the highway.

As the lanes converged, a bus traveling in the center lane failed to see Klohn’s vehicle and moved into the left lane. With nowhere to go, Klohn hit the bus. She lost control of her car and her vehicle was projected into the highway median. Klohn hit the cable barrier straight on and it caught her vehicle. Her car spun around and scraped along the length of the barrier for a distance, but when her vehicle finally came to a stop, the median cable held it securely in place. Klohn left the scene of the accident uninjured.

Klohn“I thought it was all over. I thought I would die. Without the median cable barrier, I would have crossed the freeway. There was not a lot of room in the median. I was surprised I didn’t bounce back into the lanes. The cable kept me right in the median,” Klohn said.

In Wilson’s case, her family was returning from a night out at the movies in Columbia, South Carolina, on a Saturday evening. Traveling westbound on I-26 in the left lane, there was heavy traffic all around them.

Suddenly, a fast-moving SUV traveling eastbound veered out of its lane and headed straight toward them. With the heavy traffic surrounding their vehicle, they had nowhere to go to escape a head-on collision. The SUV glanced off the median cable and came back onto the interstate. The cable barrier prevented the SUV from crossing over the median and into the oncoming lanes of traffic, thus preventing a major accident. Wilson and her family arrived home safely.

“Thank goodness for the cable guardrail. We don’t know if the SUV driver had fallen asleep or was not paying attention. Had the cable guardrail not been there, the SUV would have hit our vehicle and caused a multivehicle collision, based on the traffic surrounding us. We were very thankful to reach our destination,” Wilson said.

Klohn and Wilson’s accounts are just two examples of how guardrails save lives each day. For more information and to read more stories like Klohn and Wilson’s, visit

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