Defective Highway Barrier Leads to Fatal Crash

Traffic Engineering Expert WitnessThis roadside safety case involves a middle-aged man who suffered fatal injuries from a head-on crash that occurred while he was driving on the interstate. At the time of the accident, the man had been driving on the interior lane of a three lane highway at night. A large SUV that was heading the opposite direction on the other side of the highway median barrier suddenly lost control of his vehicle and careened into the median barrier. The barrier, which was made of high-tension steel cables strung between support posts, failed to arrest the SUV, which then impacted the decedent’s vehicle head on. As a result of the accident, the driver was killed instantly. It was alleged that the highway barrier system had been defectively designed and / or installed, and that it should have prevented the accident from occurring.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your background in the design and/or engineering of interstate cable barrier systems.
  • 2. In a crash such as the one described here, what standards should a cable barrier system meet?

Expert Witness Response E-107599

I have a PhD from the University of Nebraska where I worked as a graduate research assistant at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF), the premiere institute for conducting research on highway safety devices. I helped build and crash test many barriers, including high- and low-tension cable median barriers on flat ground, V-ditches, and curves. I currently work on a design team to develop guardrail terminals and other highway safety devices. The current protocol governing highway safety features is MASH (Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware). This is the standard adopted by the Federal Highway Administration. Its criteria must be satisfied in order for the FHWA to issue acceptance letters. Before MASH, NCHRP Report 350 was the governing standard (from 1993 to 2009).

Expert Witness Response E-006430

Expert-ID: E-006430

Working as a consultant for my state’s Department of transportation, I worked as the Project Engineer for a major highway safety improvement project. The project included 5 miles of cable barrier installed in the median. The main purpose of the safety improvements was to prevent vehicles from crossing through the median into oncoming vehicles. Cable Barrier must be approved by “American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officals” or AASHTO.


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