By Melanie J. Knox, Page Editor
Last Easter, five ACU students were killed in a car accident on I-20. This summer more than 20 people have died in accidents on the highway.
In Taylor county alone though, there were no fatal accidents, and in 2001, there was only one fatal accident, in which the victim was 18 years old.
“Interstates are generally a safer highway,” said Bob Nichols, highway patrol sergeant. “There are less accidents per mile than any other type roadway. For the smaller roads, like US 277 and farm roads there are more accidents per mile.”
In response to this, Taylor county is planning major reconstruction for farm roads and parts of I-20.
On FM 2833 (East Lake Road) they are planning to reconstruct the road, adding shoulders and safety improvements. The current estimated cost for this reconstruction is $3.5 million.
For I-20, plans are to replace the westbound exit where I-20 and Business I-20 intersect, add landscaping and an entryway marker. This proposal is estimated to cost $2.2 million and begin contracting in Oct. 2002.
Another project proposed for I-20 is to rehabilitate the roadway east of Merkel to Catclaw Creek in Abilene. The proposed contract letting date is Nov. 2002 and estimated cost is $5.8 million.
Many of these reconstructions are to help ensure the safety of travelers. For instance, on all interstates now and most state roads, there is a device on the guardrails designed to absorb the energy of an impact. There is a square device on the end of every guardrail that works like a can-opener. When hit, the square travels down the rail and peels the guardrail away from the road. This is to help prevent the car from leaving the ground and going airborne.
Many safety issues, however, can and should be taken care of by the driver.
“Our biggest cause of accidents on the interstate is driver fatigue,” Nichols said. “Either the person driving has not gotten enough rest, runs off the road or hits something, or the person in the car near you is fatigued and rides on your bumper or comes up too fast.”
Nichols advises students who will be traveling, especially over the Labor Day holidays to get enough sleep before they take the wheel, stop every hour or so just to stretch, and to utilize the rest stops that have been strategically placed for the very purpose of a break.
He also asks that students not speed. Every ten miles that a driver exceeds the speed limit doubts the amounts of energy it takes to stop.
Past 100 mph takes huge amounts of energy to stop, and the danger is that in an accident your body takes a lot of the energy.
“Refrain from the use of alcohol,” he said. “It only takes two beers to begin to slow your reactions down, although you may not be drunk. Also, if you are under 25 and there is alcohol on your breath, your license can be suspended.”
Nichols wants to remind students that the DPS officers and patrolmen are there to help you.
“If you are having trouble or witness road rage, we will try to offer whatever assistance we can,” he said.
“We are out there to make the road a safer place for the traveling public.”
The number to reach the DPS office is 1-800-525-5555. This number is printed on the back of most of the newer drivers licenses.