AHTD investigates why safety fence failed

Since Arkansas began using "wire rope safety fences", fatal accidents resulting from head-on collisions on the interstate have gone down.

"The way the safety fence works, think of it as a spider web. A bug gets caught in a spider web and the more it tries to get out the more entangled it gets, and so when a vehicle - especially like a passenger car - strikes the wire rope safety fence, it's wrapped up immediately in these high tension cables," AHTD spokesman Danny Straessle explained.

However, last week on Sunday, the system failed.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department says two cars collided going south on I-530. One drove off into the woods. The other into the median, then into the safety fence, and then into lanes carrying oncoming traffic.

Thankfully, no traffic was present at the time of the accident. The cables are supposed to stop the car, at minimum, two feet before it reaches oncoming traffic.

"It went several more feet into the travel lane. I'll estimate maybe four to six feet further than it should have, and so, we're in the process of investigating why did that happen. This is such an unusual event. It's the first time it's happened in Arkansas," Straessle said.

Adding to the mystery is the fact the cables had been checked 12 days earlier on September 1, and 28 days before than on August 4, just like the manufacturer suggests.

With about 700 miles of this fence in the state, AHTD is working with the manufacturer to figure out what went wrong this time and if it could happen again.

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