Highway barrier policy studied
As officials from the Nevada Highway Patrol try to determine the cause of fatal accident on Highway 395 near Genoa Lane last week, some residents are asking if the median design could have been a factor.
Nicole Snyder, a 16-year-old Douglas High School student, was killed by an oncoming car when it become airborne after hitting the median.
Wayne Kinder, chief roadway design engineer for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said the median design on Highway 395 between Carson City and Minden was designed to promote drainage.
“The highway is sloped to the outside, to keep mud and water off the road. The medians are wide to accommodate future expansion and for safety,” he said. “The wider the separation between oncoming lanes, the safer the road, but at some point, if the median gets too narrow, we put in median barriers.”
Chuck Reider, a safety division engineer with the department, said slopes are typically designed to be traversable and a median barrier can be a trade-off. The number of crashes actually increases with barriers, but the hope is the number of catastrophic incidents will greatly decrease or be eliminated.
“We installed a median barrier on Highway 50 toward Spooner Summit,” he said. “And there was still a fatality in the opposite lane because a truck tipped over and laid on the barrier rail.”
Because access to the highway between Carson City and Minden is not controlled, a median barrier could create more problems than it fixes.
“There aren’t always good answers,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re making an improvement, not creating more hazards.”
Department officials are considering a median barrier policy, Reider said.
“We also need to look at driver’s education, to give high school students better skills on the road,” he said. “There are some pretty catastrophic crashes involving kids and new drivers.
“People also need to know how to recover when they run off the road,” he said. “Those skills need to be taught to adults as well as kids.”
Contact Susie Vasquez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 213.