Watching the erection of concrete sound barriers along I-581 in the City of Roanoke this year, I was concerned at the obvious potential for a bad outcome if a vehicle lost control and crashed into a concrete sound barrier, causing the vehicle to ricochet out into other traffic on I-581. If the driver can’t regain
control of the vehicle, there really is no place else to go. And the only option that other vehicles on I-581 have is possibly the grassy median if they happen to be in the left lane. Not much of a choice. And then, on June 22, 2016, our community suffered the tragic loss of a driver who was killed after she lost control of her vehicle and hit the concrete sound barrier wall, which she survived. But, as we all know, she exited her disabled vehicle to call for help and was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.
The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (Ann Adv Automot Med. 2010 Jan; 54: 223–232) reported a study of secondary collisions following an initial barrier impact in tow-away level crashes. In 2010, they reported that secondary collisions were found to occur in 34 percent (95% CI = 28.2 – 39.4) of tow-away level crashes where a traffic barrier was the first object struck. Secondary crashes were found to primarily involve an impact to another vehicle, an impact to another barrier, or a rollover; tree and pole impacts were found to represent a much smaller proportion of secondary impacts. Through a detailed analysis of vehicle trajectory, this study supports previous research that has suggested that risk of a secondary collision is substantial even for vehicles not ultimately involved in a secondary collision. Compared to a single barrier impact, the occurrence of a secondary collision was found to increase the risk of serious occupant injury by a factor of 3.5, equivalent to the risk difference found between a belted and unbelted occupant.
The findings of this study are still relevant. If it was dangerous then, it is dangerous now. And maybe even more so today with the increased prevalence of inattentive drivers for numerous reasons that we all know. So with that said, let’s heighten our awareness as we drive on I-581 and certainly not cause a dangerous situation to become even more dangerous.
What do you think about these concrete sound barriers? Can you share any ideas to help keep drivers safe as they pass through that area?
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