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Fatal Truck, Bus Crashes Put Focus on Stronger Traffic Barriers

Several truck accidents in Maryland from years past, as well as a recent fatal Beltway accident in which a charter tour bus hit a guardrail and fell nearly 50 feet to Interstate 270, have drawn the close attention of various safety groups. They are questioning whether taller and stronger concrete traffic barriers should be constructed on overpasses, underpasses and bridges to prevent fatalities in vehicle falls from roads and to shield other motorists from plunging vehicles.

Accidents that AAA Mid-Atlantic officials point to include:

• A June 2009 incident in Anne Arundel County in which a man died when his truck fell 30 feet from a bridge

• A 2008 accident in Queen Anne's County in which a truck fell from the Bay Bridge into the Chesapeake, killing the driver

• A 2004 incident in which a truck carrying flammable liquids drove off a lane of Interstate 895 in Maryland and exploded, killing several people

AAA Spokesman John Townsend says that accidents such as those above can be avoided altogether in many instances, provided that road engineers factor in stronger traffic barriers at strategic locations. He states that AAA "takes exception" to the view of many highway engineers that a traffic barrier "should always be a last-resort effort to reduce the severity of a crash by containing and redirecting a vehicle that would otherwise have run off a road or bridge." Townsend responds that bigger and stronger barriers "should be given greater consideration."

The Federal Highway Administration voices agreement with that notion, suggesting the use of taller and vertically faced concrete barriers.

Related Resource: www2.insidenova.com "Fatal bus crash leads to safety inquiries" October 5, 2010

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