Barriers improve safety

DAYTON – A hornet sting made trucker Christopher Adams lose control of his semitrailer at 70 mph. Three cables may have saved his life.

A steel-cable barrier that Missouri had installed a few weeks earlier snagged his truck in the median of Interstate 44, keeping it from barreling into oncoming vehicles or from ricocheting back into traffic.

“If the cables wouldn’t have been there, I would have gone clear across the interstate,” said Adams, 58, of Payette, Idaho. “No one got hurt. That was amazing.”

To improve traffic safety without busting their budgets, states are installing the cable barriers, painting distance dots on roads to discourage tailgating and placing stop signs that light up like Christmas trees at dangerous intersections.

North Carolina uses poles called channelizers that protrude from center lines to keep motorists from sneaking through gates at railroad crossings.

Naperville, Ill., has installed flashing beacons on the back of school zone signs to remind motorists of the lower speed limit when they look in their rearview mirrors. In Milwaukee, a series of white chevrons painted on highways give motorists the illusion of going faster to get them to slow down as they approach exit ramps.

“I think there is more of an emphasis on low-cost measures simply because budget situations in state and local governments are very tight,” said Richard Retting, senior transportation engineer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.