Think of it as a safety net in between the highways, says the Missouri Department of Transportation. Missouri now has more than 600 miles of safety cables installed in the median.
Median cables are still being installed in some problem areas in the state — US 63 from Columbia to Jefferson City, US 65 and US 60 in Springfield.
MoDOT traffic safety engineer John Miller says the most fatal highways in the state are complete, Interstates 70 and 44. He says those two highways have seen dozens of crossover collisions in years past, about 50 a year, but since the cables have gone in, numbers are hovering around 10.
He says the cables absorb shock if a vehicle hits them and hopefully entangles them. He says they prevent cars from crossing the median and careening into ongoing traffic, and he says they don’t deflect vehicles back into the flow of traffic like concrete barriors can sometimes do.
Miller says other states have looked at Missouri’s success with the median cables and are starting to install more along their highways. Our state is still in the top 10 percent of the country in guard cable installation, Miller estimates.
“Guard cables are saving lives on Missouri’s highways,” says MoDOT Interim Director Kevin Keith. “They are a major reason why traffic deaths in Missouri have decreased by 31 percent since 2005 and are at their lowest level since 1950. Guard cables have proven their worth as a first line of defense dramatically reducing cross-median, head-on collisions.”
Guard cable is also strung along sections of Interstates 55, 29, 35, 435 and 470 and routes 36, 40 and 67.
There were only three cross median fatalities in 2009 at locations where guard cable is installed (results are still preliminary).
Between 1996 and 2005, prior to the installation of guard cables, more than 400 people were killed in cross-over crashes on Interstates 44, 55 and 70 alone.
A video demonstrating how guard cable stops most vehicles from crossing a median is now available on MoDOT’s YouTube site at www.youtube.com/user/modotvideo.