A new feature is slowly appearing on Missouri highways that seem to be making them safer.  It’s the  “J-turn”  and the state has built thirteen of them since putting the first one in Jefferson County in 2007.  They’re replacing the places where drivers cross medians to either turn left onto an adjoining road or to make a u-turn on a divided highway.

A University of Missouri study of five j-turns  shows they have eliminated fatal crashes and have cut injury crashes in half.  They involve deceleration lanes on the left side of a highway, leading to a crossover, and an acceleration lane on the other side so cars can blend into traffic.

Transportation department safety engineer John Miller  is a big supporter of them says “it minimizes the chances of getting hit in the driver door or the passenger door.” .

They’re not popular with some drivers, partly because they make drivers go on down the road a ways before they can make the turn instead of going slowing down in the passing lane and making a left turn.  But safety experts like Miller say they are what is needed to eliminate some serious crashes.

He says one more j-turn is planned in the 2014 construction cycle.  Others will be installed gradually at places where, unfortunately, injury and fatality numbers point to a need.

Audio: Miller interview 16:14