Crossover Accident Outside Kansas City Renews Call for Missouri-Like Guard Cables

By May 5, 2011Auto Accidents

As a Missouri auto accident attorney, I wrote about two months ago in this space about the call for median guard cables in Kansas. Guard cables, which are thick metal cables strung between opposing lanes of traffic on highways, are in wider use on the Missouri side of the state line, and the Missouri Department of Transportation believes they have saved lives by preventing crossover accidents. Kansas transportation authorities have not used the cables as much, however, in part because of the cost and the different highway widths in the two states. Unfortunately, the issue was revived April 16 when a crossover crash on the K-10 highway killed five-year-old Cainan Schutt and 24-year-old Ryan Pittman.
Schutt and his two-year-old sister were on their way to an Easter egg hunt with their grandmother and her husband when Pittman crossed the center median of K-10. The ensuing crash killed both and seriously injured Schutt’s sister and grandmother. Blood tests later showed that Pittman had several incapacitating drugs in his body. The mayor of the town where they lived, Eudora, responded with a campaign for guard cables along K-10, and Kansas governor Sam Brownbeck has asked the state Department of Transportation to study the matter.
However, KDOT has said it doesn’t believe the cables are necessarily the best choice. Using a cost-benefit analysis, the agency had previously concluded that K-10 didn’t qualify for the expensive cables, due to relatively low traffic and wide medians. Highway medians are generally wider in Kansas than in Missouri, they note, so drivers who swerve off the road have more time to recover. As a result, the state sees about five crossover accidents per year, far fewer than Missouri’s pre-cable rate. Cables could actually cause a few accidents among drivers who would otherwise be able to get back in their lanes. And guard cables would prevent emergency vehicles from turning around easily, they said.
As a St. Louis car crash lawyer, I hope KDOT officials make this decision with safety in mind. Missouri is being used as a comparison not just because we’re neighbors, but also because Missouri has seen a dramatic drop in its crossover accident fatalities since installing the cables. Last year, we had seven crossover deaths; in 2003, before installation started, we had 53. MoDOT acknowledges that cables can bounce cars back into traffic, as KDOT suggested, but says the sideswipe or rear-end accidents this causes are less likely to be deadly than a head-on crossover crash. And the other arguments cited in the article can easily be raised against the medians on interstates and other divided highways, where emergency vehicles are still doing their jobs.


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