Cable median barriers save lives

Mark Nelson


Safety on our roadways is the top priority for the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT). In 2018 NDDOT launched the Vision Zero safety initiative with a goal of zero motor vehicle fatalities and serious injuries on North Dakota roads. As part of that initiative the NDDOT reviewed crash data and identified lane departure crashes, which includes cross-median crashes, as one of the top crash emphasis areas in the state.

Cross-median crashes occur when a vehicle departs the roadway of a divided highway, crosses the median, and strikes an object or a vehicle traveling in the opposing direction. These types of crashes present the highest risk of fatal and severe injuries among all collision types on highways. Median-crossover crashes are caused by a variety of factors including: driver distraction, impaired driving, mechanical failure, and loss of vehicle control.

The NDDOT is committed to continue to look at proactive safety measures that can enhance safety on North Dakota highways to prevent fatalities and serious injuries. The installation of cable-median barriers are a proven proactive safety measure and one of the tools in the toolbox to prevent fatalities and serious injuries and enhance safety on our divided roadways. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) credits cable median barriers to a 97% reduction in cross-median crashes when installed on four lane Interstate highways or freeways.

The cable barriers are placed in the median ditch on one side of the highway, 8 feet to 20 feet away from the edge of the road shoulder. When the vehicle leaves the roadway and enters the ditch, the cable median barrier absorbs the energy from the vehicle traveling, and it’s meant to deflect and redirect the vehicle to keep it from going across the median.

In 2019, the NDDOT has identified portions of the interstate to begin installation of the cable median barriers in the metro areas of Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks as a proactive measure against crossover crashes.

The NDDOT is confident the barriers will prevent tragedies from occurring on our roadways and help reach our Vision Zero goal.

— Nelson is NDDOT Deputy Director for

Driver and Vehicle

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