Cross Median Vehicle Collision on I-79

A cross median crash is a collision or wreck where a vehicle, or vehicles depart from the way traveled to the left, traversing the median separation between the highway’s directional lanes, and colliding with a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.  In an attempt to prevent these often fatal collisions, grass medians separate interstate highway lanes and concrete or metal beam barriers have been installed in some known highway danger areas.

Grass medians can be somewhat effective, as also are traditional concrete and metal-beam barriers, but are expensive and can be difficult to install in some locations.  The good news is that the alternative of cable median barriers can provide an solution which is both comparatively inexpensive and effective.  A great advantage for West Virginia terrain is that these cable barriers are very effective on slopes.   National studies have shown a 96% reduction in fatal cross median crashes when these cable barriers are used, and several hightension cable designs are now available that can withstand multiple hits.

A recent three vehicle collision near Weston, WV where two vehicles collided in the southbound lanes of I-79 may be a case for consideration in determining whether or not the mere separation of lanes by a grass median is enough to prevent such head on collisions.  The impact of this collision drove one of the vehicles into the northbound lanes, where it slammed into a flatbed truck.   Tragically, the truck driver was injured and taken to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, and one person was killed in the wreck.  Clearly, the grass median was not enough in this case to prevent tragedy.

Accident reconstructionists are working to determine the cause of the initial collision involving the two cars in the southbound lane.crash on I-79 near weston

This accident was obviously a cross-median collision, but the absence of a standard definition leaves many accident situations in doubt with regard to characterizing them as cross-median crashes. Questionable examples include the following: vehicles departing the roadway, crossing the median, and colliding with a tree and vehicles crossing the median and falling from a bridge overpass onto a different road such as in a recent incident which occurred near Bridgeport, WV.

In October of 2013, on the southbound side of I-79 just past the Meadowbrook Mall exit in Bridgeport, a truck lost control as it was approaching the bridge crossing Johnson Avenue/Meadowbrook Road, hit the guardrail and then fell off the bridge on the street below.

The semi truck was completely destroyed and I-79 South was limited to one lane while the section of Johnson Avenue/Meadowbrook Road between the I-79 northbound on ramp and the I-79 southbound off ramp was completely closed.  One person was injured, but the truck driver was able to crawl out of the cab after the collision.

In light of trying to prevent such accidents from happening at all, or at least minimizing the impact and damage from such collisions, the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) is working toward better accident analysis in this area.  Furthermore, the NTSB recommends that NHTSA and Governors Highway Safety Association work together to add a standard definition for “cross-median crash” and a data element for cross-median crash accidents to the national databases.  Solutions to address the problem naturally include barrier application and installation decisions in where to best place highway dollars for driver’s safety.

Causes of cross median crashes are the same as you would expect in any motor vehicle collision, such as fatigue, improper lane changes, and inattention, but the good news is that research is showing that protective barriers, especially cable median barriers, can prevent most cross median crashes, regardless of the circumstances.

One of the least expensive solutions would be increased installation of cable median barriers which consists of 3 or 4 steel cables, tensioned and strung on posts which contain vehicles in the median once they leave the roadway where they are less likely to involve other vehicles and cause a multi-vehicle crash.

Cable median barriers are also some of the most versatile and forgiving barrier system available for reducing the severity of run-off-road crashes and show a substantial reduction in fatal and injury crashes when compared to concrete and metal beam barriers.  When struck, the cables flex and the posts break which absorbs most of the crash’s kinetic energy and redirects the vehicle along the barrier.  National studies have shown a 96% reduction in fatal cross median crashes when these barriers are used.

Indisputably, prevention is always preferable to the cure, but when a motor vehicle accident does occur, whatever the circumstances, human suffering and property loss is too often the result.  At the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, we have spent decades helping the victims of such collisions gain the compensation they need to put their lives and health back together, as much as possible.

We know how to navigate the insurance agencies’ strategies to minimize reimbursement and compensation for your losses and how to help you gain your best possible result.  If you have any questions concerning injuries or financial losses, or property damage from a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, call us today to get the answers you need:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

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Source:  National Transportation Safety Board, “Safety Recommendation.”  October 4th, 2011.  http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/recletters/2011/H-11-028.pdf

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