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Many Highway Cable Barriers in North Carolina (NC) Fail to Protect Drivers

An investigation by ABC-11 in Raleigh, North Carolina (NC), shows that cable barriers along state roads are failing to do their intended job of preventing head-on collisions that injure and kill drivers and passengers. Focusing on a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 540, the station found a dozen sections of cable that were damaged, loose or lying around on the ground. About 700 miles of North Carolina medians have cable barriers installed.

"We've heard a number of positive stories about how this barrier has saved lives, individuals' lives," WTVD quoted North Carolina Department of Transportation State Traffic Engineer Kevin Lacy as saying. For its part, the station found found cables that weren't fixed for at least a month and also quoted NCDOT as stating that the barriers have not been designed to stop vehicles that hit them at a 90-degree angle or go beneath the wires.

See this video about a broken cable barrier.

The state says when a car strikes a cable barrier, injuries occur about 19 percent of the time. The comparable figure is 35 percent for guardrails and 41 percent for concrete barriers.

As experienced North Carolina accident injury attorneys, my colleagues and I report on many cases in which drivers cross medians, sometimes with fatal consequences. On July 18, 2011, we reported that an off-duty paramedic who had just finished his shift in Granville, NC was killed in a head-on collision.

When we reported in 2010 that U.S. 129 in North Carolina and Interstate 26 in South Carolina (SC) had both been listed as being among the deadliest in America by CBS News, we suggested cable barriers could improve safety on these roads. But the barriers are of little use if they are damaged or allowed to fall into disrepair. So while North Carolina may not have a duty to provide them, the state could face accident injury and wrongful death lawsuits if it fails to maintain the barriers.

This has already happened. In 2010 the state of Washington paid $1.1 million to a woman who was severely injured in a crossover accident when her car was hit by vehicle that went through cable barriers, reported. A national traffic safety expert said the barriers had been installed improperly.


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