Some question the safety of cable barriers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Some question the safety of cable barriers


Cable barriers have become a popular tool by the Iowa Department of Transportation to prevent head-on collisions. In 2005, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) installed one in the median of Highway 58 after a few deadly crashes. Several months later it passed its first test, when a car crashed into the barrier, but did not go into oncoming lanes.

These barriers aren't made to handle every kind of vehicle out on the road. These cable barriers are designed to handle cars, trucks, and SUV's. Officials with the Iowa DOT say they have stopped semis in the past, but don't count on it every time.

In the past five years, these cable barriers have become a common sight along eastern Iowa highways and interstates. The goal of the Iowa DOT who installed them is to prevent head on collisions in heavy traffic areas.

"If you hit a concrete barrier with your car the concrete doesn't give. The vehicle will take all that shock. The cable barrier will absorb quite a bit of that shock. Like I said they are a big safety preventive measure," said Pete Hjelmstad of the Iowa DOT.

DJ New York, a truck driver from New York, has driven across eastern Iowa a number of times. He sees these barriers as a safety hazard.

"I have to say, if god forbid, this truck would tear that barrier up. Cars have torn it up," New York said.

Some concerns about these cable barriers include how close they are to the roadways. Most of these cable barriers are right next to the should of the road. Some drivers say this is too close.

"If you have to stop because there's a car in front of you there should be some kind of space that you can maneuver over without hitting that rail so fast," said New York.

Officials with the Iowa DOT say they can't put them in the median because the median is usually lower than the highway and they wouldn't be as effective. Also water usually pools in these areas making the ground unstable.

"During the winter a lot of times the snow will build up. If that cable median barrier is down in the bottom of the median we can't clear out all the snow down there. When they're up close to the road we clean the snow and they can remain effective during the winter as well,"  Hjelmstad said.

Several other drivers also questioned the safety of these cable barriers. They say they are even more dangerous for those driving in convertibles and motorcycles saying the drivers are put at a greater risk.

After a collision with these cable barriers the Iowa DOT tries to get the metal posts that hold the cable replaced as soon as possible. Officials say they are still effective without posts because of the tension in the cables.

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