High-tension cable barriers that have been constructed along 700 miles of Texas roadways are apparently doing their job. A recent study of the effectiveness of these barriers found that 18 fatalities and 26 injuries were prevented last year.
Cable barriers are designed to prevent vehicles from crossing into oncoming lanes of traffic. These crossovers often result in head-on collisions.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) studied the effectiveness of these barriers over a 12-month period. The preliminary figures mirror a similar study last year that showed fatalities dropped from 52 to just one. The studies focused on Texas medians that had cable barriers in place for at least one year.
“If you cross the median, chances are good that the resulting crash will cause a fatality or incapacitating injury because they usually occur at high speeds,” explains Scott Cooner, a Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) research engineer devising a cable barrier maintenance manual for TxDOT. “The studies make it clear that cable barriers are keeping people from crossing the median…and they are saving lives.”
The cable systems are also only about one-third the cost of concrete barriers. However, on the downside, the study shows that maintenance costs for the cable barriers are much higher than costs to repair concrete barriers.
“That seems to be the only disadvantage,” Cooner said. “Over a 15-year lifespan of the cables, the maintenance costs will be higher but still less expensive overall compared to their concrete counterparts.”
TTI has been involved in the crash testing of end terminals and components for cable barriers since 2001. Cable barriers have become common fixtures along the nation’s highway system.