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What Are the Safety Benefits of Median Barriers?

Published on Jul 22, 2022 at 1:50 pm in Auto Safety.

What Are the Safety Benefits of Median Barriers?

There are many precautions you can take to stay safe while driving. From following the posted speed limit to always wearing your seatbelt, you should prioritize your safety every time that you get behind the wheel.

Your well-being does not rest solely in your own hands, though. When you share the road with other drivers, you are also at the mercy of how other people choose to behave and drive. While you might treat driving like the serious task that it is, others are far more careless when they are in charge of a motor vehicle. This is where infrastructure becomes crucially important.

Road infrastructure can have a profound impact on safety. The inclusion of signage, proper drainage, and other structures help create safer driving environments for everyone. Median barriers, in particular, are especially effective at reducing the number of head-on collisions. The car accident lawyers at The Solomon Law Group believe that the safety benefits of median barriers far outweigh the costs of installation and maintenance.

How Median Barriers Protect Drivers

Median barriers are structures that run parallel to roads, separating opposing lanes of traffic on divided highways. Their main purpose is to prevent cross-median car accidents, through both force absorption and redirection. Cross-median crashes are typically head-on collisions, which are especially deadly because of the doubled force of impact from two vehicles traveling in opposing directions.

Speed limits in South Carolina can be as high as 70 mph on the interstate. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), head-on collisions that occur with both vehicles traveling at 56 mph are extremely likely to cause:

  • Severe brain injuries
  • Severe neck injuries
  • Leg fractures

When a driver veers out of their lane of traffic on a divided highway, they have the potential to travel across the median and into oncoming traffic, where they can cause an accident. Median barriers prevent this from happening. When a driver veers out of their lane on a stretch of roadway that includes median barriers, they will strike the barrier instead of heading into oncoming traffic.

There are many reasons why drivers might leave their own lane, travel across a median, and enter oncoming traffic. Just a few examples include:

  • Drunk or drugged driving
  • Fatigued driving
  • Distracted driving
  • An unexpected medical event
  • Highway hypnosis
  • Speeding
  • Reckless or aggressive driving

The Safety Benefits of Various Types of Median Barriers

South Carolina has approximately 850 miles of interstate roads that crisscross the state. Although median barriers are not present on every last mile of interstate, you’ll notice stretches of median barriers when traveling along:

  • I-77
  • I-70
  • I-385
  • I-26
  • I-85
  • I-20
  • I-26

Median barriers may run alongside the road for fewer than 10 miles in some areas, while they will be present for upwards of 45 miles in others. While driving, you will also notice three different types of median barriers:

  • Concrete barriers. Concrete barriers require less maintenance compared to other types of median barriers. They do not absorb much energy from vehicle impacts, and instead function by redirecting vehicles. When a driver hits a concrete median barrier, their vehicle will be redirected back into their own lane of traffic. There is often little maintenance or repair work that needs to be done after a collision with a concrete barrier other than to shift it back into place.
  • Cable barriers. These types of barriers consist of steel cables that are mounted along steel posts. Highly flexible, they absorb a significant amount of crash impact, which means that less force is exerted on the driver and other vehicle occupants. A cable barrier serves to both absorb impacts and redirect vehicles. Although this type of median barrier is much more adaptable to things like slopes, hills, and other landscape differences, it does typically require more repairs and maintenance overall.
  • Metal-beam guardrails. These strike a balance between the rigidity of concrete barriers and the flexibility of cable barriers. As a semi-rigid barrier, metal-beam guardrails consist of a piece of steel shaped as either a W or a box, which is mounted to steel or wooden posts. The beam will dent and deform when struck, absorbing some of the energy from the impact and then redirecting the vehicle. These are ideal in areas where space is limited, as they do not redirect and deflect vehicles quite as well as cable or concrete barriers. Little to no maintenance may be required after minor accidents, although large impacts almost always necessitate maintenance.

Where Median Barriers Are Most Effective

In its Roadside Design Guide, The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) strongly recommends using median barriers in areas where the median is 30 feet wide or less, and the average daily traffic (ADT) is measured at higher than 20,000 vehicles per day (VPD).

Median barriers are considered optional in areas where the median is between 30 and 50 feet with an ADT of fewer than 20,000 VPD. Potential risk factors that should be taken into account when deciding whether to install median barriers in these areas include:

  • History of median crossover crashes
  • Terrain configuration in the median
  • Average traffic volume
  • Vehicle classification (including commercial)

Life After a Car Accident

The safety benefits of median barriers are undeniable. Median barriers are highly effective at preventing median crossover and head-on collisions. If you were traveling in an area that lacked median barriers and were injured by a negligent or distracted driver who crossed the median, you need help. Your related medical and auto repair bills can create an enormous financial burden, especially if you’ve been unable to work since the accident. At The Solomon Law Group, we believe that every victim deserves help on their path to recovery.

Our lawyers know what it takes to prove fault in a car accident. Whether that means highlighting the lack of median barriers or using phone records to prove that the other driver was texting, we won’t rest until our clients are fairly compensated for their injuries.

There is no time to delay. South Carolina limits the time you have to file a personal injury claim, and insurance companies know all the best tricks to run that clock out. Contact us today to speak with an experienced and compassionate attorney about your situation.

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