Recently, we covered the story of a Virginia truck accident that took place on Interstate 64 west when a tractor-trailer lost control and slammed into a guardrail after leaving the left lane. The truck flipped on its side, stalling traffic for hours and leaving the truck driver with injuries.
Guardrails and other safety barriers
The accident shines a spotlight on metal guardrails and other barriers – safety measures that are meant to keep us safe, but may not always be doing their job, especially when a heavy big-rig is involved. Currently, our guardrails are generally the same make and design as they were in the 1960s – when the vehicles on the road were much different. While guardrails were designed to keep us safe seventy years ago, now they may provide us with a false sense of safety. Specifically, guardrails present two problems:
- Guardrail strength. Guardrails are made of steel and concrete, and yet they are not specifically designed to stop large vehicles like commercial tractor-trailers or even SUVs. A large vehicle with a lot of force behind it can crash through a guardrail or damage it so that it is ineffective if struck again. If, for example, a guardrail fails to keep a truck from crossing the median into oncoming traffic, the result can be deadly.
- Guardrail capture areas. When guardrails were first designed, most cars on the road were on the same level and were the same height and build. Now, many cars, sports utility vehicles, and trucks, aren’t built like those in decades past. The result is that vehicles slam into guardrails and flip over them, sometimes causing even greater harm to the occupants. In some past cases, trucks have flipped over guardrails along overpasses and landed on busy streets below.