Are median barriers needed on U.S. 231?

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2017

This week’s fatal wreck on U.S. 231 South of Brundidge is raising valid concerns again about the lack of a median or lane divider on that stretch of highway.

Four people have lost their lives so far this year in accidents on U.S. 231 along the Pike County roadway.

And those are just the wrecks that caused deaths. A wreck in February this year caused seven injuries and two were airlifted in critical condition. The other vehicle in the collision that took Micahel Shipman’s life in January was crumpled and tossed to the side of the road, but that driver lived as well.

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We’re fortunate there haven’t been more than four lives lost on the stretch of road this year.

That same stretch of roadway claimed six lives during a four-month period between December 2010 and March 2011.

At that time, then-Police Chief Anthony Everage raised concerns about the lack of median barriers. “I don’t know that there’s an easy solution,” he said.

This week, Police Chief Randall Barr echoed those same concerns. “There’s been a concern for a long time on that stretch of roadway where there is no median to divide those northbound and southbound lanes,” he said.

With cars travelling in excess of 50 mph on that roadway, the dangers of collision increase exponentially. And some sort of barrier – whether a concrete or grass median or simple barrier poles – would at least provide a buffer between cross-over crashes, slowing vehicles and perhaps giving drivers a chance to react before a collision.

But erecting barriers isn’t that simple.

In 2011, an Alabama Department of Transportation official explained that the agency continually reviews crash data to search for trends that would indicate the need for additional median barriers.  He also explained that a variety of issues factor into the decision about where to place medians and barriers, including the width of the roadway and the need for access from side roads. All of those issues, combined with the costs involved, play into the review of the Pike County roadway.

We wonder, though, if it’s not time for another public review of the traffic data along that roadway. Like many residents in Pike County, we’ve watched for too long as vehicles cross lanes, collide and, in the most tragic of cases, claim the lives of too many people.

It’s time to address the glaring safety issues.