The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

August 26, 2013

DOH explains how guardrails deter accidents rather than stop vehicles from going over cliffs

PRINCETON — While guardrails are a common feature on the mountainous roadways of West Virginia, not all motorists realize how guardrails are used to keep roads safe.

Tom Camden, manager of West Virginia Division of Highways District 10, explained that guardrails are more often used to deter accidents rather than preventing vehicles from going over cliffs or ravines.

“Guardrails are themselves an obstruction,” he said. “You have to determine if a guardrail would actually make an area safer or just make accidents in the area worse.

“Normally, when it comes to new installation of guardrails, we pick areas where there have been multiple requests from the public or local entities or where a traffic study has indicated a guardrail may be of use.”

While guardrails are used to keep motorists safe, Camden said not many people realize guardrails are supposed to be used more as visual cues than barriers to prevent accidents.

“Guardrails are supposed to guide you onto the road or help you register where the safe place on the road is for your vehicle,” Camden said. “Odds are if you hit a guardrail it won’t stop your vehicle. It may slow your vehicle down if you hit it at the right speed, right angle and depending on your vehicle. A lot of people want guardrails to protect their personal property.”

Camden said the DOH gets the most guardrail requests not in particularly mountainous areas but rather areas with the largest amount of road.

“Given the terrain, we get guardrail requests equally out of all the counties we serve,” he said. “We do get more requests from the counties with more roads, particularly Mercer and Raleigh in District 10. Of course, we do more work repairing guardrails we already have than putting in new ones.”

A mix of state funding and insurance claims helps cover the cost of replacing guardrails, Camden said.

“We have a certain amount of money we get each year specifically for guardrail repair,” he said. “We can also claim property damage on a guardrail against a person’s insurance if they hit one of our guardrails. Funds for routine maintenance also go toward replacing guardrails.”

District 10 is currently in the process of bidding out a new contract for guardrail replacement in Mercer, McDowell, Raleigh and Wyoming counties. Camden said guardrail work is done through contract rather than in-house because of the special equipment required for installations.

“The company we contract with will handle any new installation of guardrails and all repairs for a year,” he said. “It is generally included for them to repair guardrails damaged due to accidents. Typically, the contracts are good for a year. This one will expire on June 30, 2014, but may have a grace period while we work out our next contract. This will only cover state roads or road managed by the DOH.”

— Kate Coil is a reporter for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Text Only
Latest News
  • State DHHR workers to picket over large caseloads

    West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employees are picketing outside the agency's Fayette County office to raise awareness over what they call large, unmanageable caseloads.

    July 29, 2014

  • Arch Coal posts bigger 2Q loss

    Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer's latest earnings surpass analysts' expectations.


    July 29, 2014

  • Tunnel.jpg Tunnel traffic to be restricted to one lane for repairs

    Highway crews are planning to do additional repairs Tuesday night and Wednesday night inside of the East River Mountain. As a result, traffic inside of the tunnel will be limited to one lane in both directions, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meth lab bust nets two Raleigh residents

    An anonymous phone call about two children in danger led authorities to a meth lab bust and the arrests of two Raleigh County residents Monday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Congress closes in on benefits for veterans

    On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.

    July 29, 2014

  • Voters to decide on youth nonprofit tax status

    Legislation passed late in the session in March will put one issue on the November ballot for voters — whether Boy Scouts’ Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve will be able to rent its property and facilities to other organizations, and not pay property taxes on its 10,600 acres in Fayette County.

    July 29, 2014

  • Judge denies continuance; murder trial to begin Aug. 5

    The trial of a 24-year-old man accused of the first-degree murder of his stepfather will go on as scheduled, after a judge denied a defense motion Monday for a continuance.

    July 29, 2014

  • Litter can endanger public health

    Cleaning up Wyoming County remains an ongoing priority, according to County Commissioner Silas Mullins.

    July 29, 2014

  • tex Legends

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thief smashes AccessHealth Daniels' clinic's door

    July 28, 2014