Yesterday’s Orlando Sentinel reported that five years after guardrails were installed in the median of Florida’s Turnpike, fatal accidents and deaths from automobile crashes on the turnpike have been reduced by more than half. Although urban areas have had guardrails along the turnpike for years, many rural areas, including Osceola County, did not have them. The article attributes the decline of traffic deaths to the reduction of accidents from out-of-control cars crossing the median and striking oncoming traffic head-on. These types of accidents are extremely dangerous because they usually occur at very high speeds. Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Jorge Delahoz was quoted as saying, “We’ve cut our fatalities in half. We’re proud of it, and we want to keep them low”. The Sentinel said that prior to installing the new guardrails in 2003 and 2004 there were a total of 142 fatal turnpike crashes, which claimed 187 lives. Since the new rails were put in place, in 2008 and 2009 the total dropped to just 73 fatal crashes killing 82 people.
There is a downside to guardrails which is that most people who run off the road get control of their vehicle without crossing the median. If there’s a barrier, people will hit it which does cause additional injuries that may not have occurred if the guardrails were not in place. However, it’s well worth the risk of these additional minor accidents if fatalities can be prevented. Because State officials finally said enough is enough and made sure to spend the money necessary to put in the guardrails, many lives have been saved. It goes to show that if you want to prevent automobile accidents, there are positive things government can do to make it happen.