In my personal injury law practice in Atlanta, Georgia, I see too many reports of injuries and deaths in highway construction zones.
And almost every day, somewhere in the country, there is another instance of a vehicle crossing over highway median strips to strike oncoming vehicles head-on.
Last week I spent a day poring through Georgia DOT I-85 design drawings and construction records regarding one such incident. That may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it took me back to the period in my youth when I thought I wanted to be a civil engineer and design highways.
Today, Sarah Fay Campbell in the Newnan Times-Herald reports that the I-85 widening project includes no median barriers to stop median crossover crashes between Moreland and Grantville.
The Georgia DOT says no barrier is required where there are 12 foot emergency lanes and a 20 foot grassy strip in the median.
Coweta County Commissioner Randolph Collins disagrees. He says, "The median is so flat and there is nothing there to catch a vehicle." Commissioner Collins knows what he is talking about. He is a former Georgia State Patrol trooper, and former member of the GSP’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team that investigates serious accidents.
There have been two fatal crossover accidents on I-85 just south of Moreland Exit 41, Collins said.
While the I-85 construction is under way, the speed limit is 50 mph. "So what are we going to do when it gets to 70 mph?" Collins asked.
The Federal Highway Administration approved the installation of cable median barriers for the project, according to DOT District Engineer Thomas Howell. But there is no funding for the barriers.
"This is a safety concern… they don’t have the money to pay for it. But let’s find the money," Collins said.
Such shortcuts in construction may prove to be "penny wise and pound foolish" when the death claims start pouring in.
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Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed among the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Treasurer of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.