Barriers only part of the solution to I-5 tragedies

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After years of continued accidents, purported fixes, studies and not-so-gentle prodding by concerned citizens and some elected officials, the Washington State Department of Transportation is taking the advice of an independent consultant and will install a concrete barrier along a 10-mile stretch of I-5 near Marysville and Arlington.
That stretch of freeway, currently lined with two sets of cable barriers in the median, has been plagued by 19 crossover accidents in the last nine years, including eight fatalities since 2000.
State officials contend that the cable barriers are an effective means of preventing crossover accidents in other parts of the state, but cant explain the repeated failures by the barriers lining the I-5 median in our area.
Based on a report issued by Malcolm Ray, an independent contractor, and a mandate by Gov. Christine Gregoire, the state will install a concrete barrier along the 10 miles of I-5 northbound median, at an estimated cost of $28 million.
While the $28 million project is an important step in reducing the problem, it is not the only thing that must be done. Fortunately, the other part of the solution wont cost a dime and each of us can play a part in making it happen.
Eliminating the tragic accidents along that section of freeway does not rely solely on the type of barrier lining the median; it also depends on the drivers using that portion of the freeway.
While there may be a number of factors that have contributed to the problem drivers must take responsibility for their actions and do their part to make that area safer.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Kirk Rudeen, District 7 public information officer, pointed out that in 2006, along that portion of the freeway, the WSP made nearly 15,000 stops, of which approximately 12,000 were for speeding and another 2,000 were for aggressive driving. He also noted that the WSDOT compiles an annual list of the top 10 sections of highway where people drive more than 90 mph the local section currently ranks Number 5 and has been as high as Number 3 on the list. WSP Chief John Batiste pointed out at a July 6 meeting in Marysville that almost 4,000 drivers were clocked at 90 mph in just the first three months of this year. Speed kills, according to Trooper Rudeen, who noted that 40 percent of the fatal accidents statewide were the result of speeding.
To emphasize that point, Rudeen said WSP troopers have stepped up enforcement to ensure drivers get the message and are working to educate drivers to change their behaviors
In addition to slowing down and obeying the posted speed limits, the Trooper said drivers should also focus on their driving and should allow the appropriate following distance between them and the car in front of them.
While the concrete barrier is a step in the right direction, the one thing we can all do right now is to change our driving habits. We need to slow down and focus on the driving conditions around us it may save our life, the lives of our passengers or the lives of the occupants of another vehicle. Keeping the freeway safe isnt just the responsibility of the state, it is also the responsibility of all those who use it.


To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board
Kris Passey or Scott Frank e-mail forum@premier1.net.

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