Concrete will always win – game, set & match

Every year there are some 200 accidents in the UK in which vehicles have breached the central reservation steel barrier. These crossover incidents result in an average fatality rate of 40 deaths per year and according to UK government figures, each fatality has a financial cost in excess of £1 million. This is merely the tip of the iceberg when you take into account the cost of delays and the amount of wasted fuel siphoned by the queuing motorists.

Fortunately, at least for some British motorists, since 2005 concrete barrier (with its characteristic stepped profile) has gradually been employed on Britain’s motorways by order of the Highways Agency. The barrier has shown by extensive European safety testing and computer simulation to reduce the injury to occupants of small cars, 4x4s, pick-up trucks and even lorries weighing up to 13.5 tonnes.

The innovative ‘step’ of concrete barrier is designed to limit minor vehicle contact to the base of the barrier and the vehicle tyres. Impact, in most cases, allows the vehicle to continue undamaged on its journey compared to the flat-fronted rigid steel barriers which regularly buckle under the force of a small impact, often causing a fatal cross-over accident.

Whilst the Highways Agency have thankfully opted for concrete barrier on future integration plans, they intend only to replace steel with concrete once steel barrier has “reached the end of its natural life”. In the meantime motorists are unwillingly forced to see more terrible and unnecessary accidents unfold on Britain’s roads every month.

In May, three people were killed on the Gloucestershire stretch of the M5 when a Volkswagen van crashed into a Mitsubishi Colt after barrelling through the steel central reservation. A woman and a child, were also severely injured in the collision. The motorway was shut between junctions 9 and 11 northbound, while the southbound carriageway was closed between junctions 8 and 9. Not only did the steel reservation provide an insufficient safeguard for the motorists, but 100m of the barrier was completely destroyed by the crash. Consequently the highways maintenance team had to close two lanes and take on the fearfully dangerous task of repairing the barrier. More delays, more cost – all unnecessary!

Another accident occurred in June on the A14 in Kettering, Northamptonshire, when an articulated lorry jacknifed and ploughed through the steel central reservation hitting an oncoming tractor, throwing the driver out of his cab and onto the road. A police spokesman said: “For reasons not yet known, the large goods vehicle collided with the rear of the tractor and the trailer it was hauling. The driver of the tractor was thrown clear of his vehicle and sustained serious injuries. The driver of the of the large goods vehicle was unhurt”. The accident took place at 1pm between junctions 9 and 10 and police reopened one lane on each carriageway at 4:40pm but warned motorists that the road would be closed for several hours due to the extensive damage to the central reservation. To the despair of A14 motorists, it wasn’t until the next day that all lanes were reopened.

It is essential to bring to light each month that such cross-over accidents would almost certainly have been avoidable had concrete barrier been employed at an earlier stage. It’s distinct advantages should be reason enough to start replacing ALL steel barrier today and make our roads and motorways a safer place to travel.

The advantages of employing concrete step barrier on Britain’s roads are well made:

• Concrete barrier eliminates the possibility of a cross-over incident!
• Concrete barriers last 40 years. Steel lasts only 12 years. Concrete saves us money in the long-run.
• Concrete barriers rarely require repair after a crash. Currently, repairing barriers involves closing a road/lane for repairs to be carried out, with workers being put at risk on the road.
• They work equally well with heavier vehicles – up to 13.5 tonnes.
• Only one concrete barrier is needed in the central reservation to serve both sides of the road allowing for wider lanes.
• There is no headlight dazzle through the barrier.
• They need less space as they don’t ‘deform’ like steel barriers.

To date, no existing concrete step barrier sections in the UK have ever been breached, demonstrating that concrete step barrier saves lives and saves substantial sums of money. Lets knock steel out of the game for good and get concrete saving lives today! It IS the safest, cheapest, most efficient barrier to date.

Game, set & match!

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