Kansas City Report Compares Missouri’s Guard Cables to Lack of Divider in Kansas

By March 3, 2011 July 18th, 2019 Auto Accidents

As a St. Louis auto accident lawyer, I’ve written here at least once before about the installation of guard cables along highways in Missouri, which MoDOT sees as a life-saver but others do not. That issue moved a bit to the west this week when Kansas City’s KCTV reported March 1 on the issue of guard cables in neighboring Kansas, where the cables are deployed only where the state Department of Transportation believes they’re cost-effective. The report included an interview with Tara Coffman, who lost her husband in 2006 when a tractor-trailer crossed the center of a Kansas state highway and hit his car head-on. Justin Coffman was 28 at the time and the father of a new baby son.
Guard cables have been used in Missouri for 12 years, with the program expanded between 2005 and 2008. MoDOT believes the cables have saved substantial amounts of lives. One spokesperson pointed to accident statistics showing that just two people died in areas with new guard cables in the year following their installation. Before installation, the same areas saw 55 fatalities. A MoDOT spokesperson told the station the agency installs cables wherever fatalities are high. By contrast, Kansas performed a cost-benefit analysis and decided to put its first guard cables in only two places, not including the road on which Justin Coffman died. An engineering manager for KDOT said the cost makes it harder for the agency to provide other services that generate more complaints, like smoothing out potholes.
As a Missouri car crash attorney, I doubt that complaining to KDOT is a priority for families of people killed in crossover accidents. I agree strongly with the MoDOT spokesperson, who acknowledged that the price of installing guard cables is high — but said “I know that every one of those numbers has a name.” Federal statistics show that head-on accidents, the type a crossover is most likely to produce, are more than 25 percent of all fatal accidents. And Missouri recently recorded its lowest numbers of traffic accidents since the 1950s, which tracks a national trend but may be partly because of a decrease in deadly crossover accidents.


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