A concerned Malaysian writes about Malaysian affairs. "You are the Change you Seek" Barack Obama

Thursday, August 16, 2007

WARNING! Safety Barriers Can Kill More People

According to this report, many instant remedies have been proposed to prevent accidents similar to the latest bus tragedy.

This particular one worries me a lot:

"Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said safety rails along highways and roads would be upgraded to withstand the impact of a crash. He ordered the Public Works Department to start installing double guardrails along dangerous stretches on highways and roads.

"The existing guardrails can be easily destroyed when heavy vehicles crash into them.

"The double guardrails will be able to withstand the impact of a crash," he said after launching his ministry’s Merdeka Day celebrations yesterday.

Samy Vellu said he had also ordered the Malaysian Highway Authority to ensure that the rails were made of steel.

He said the cost of the exercise would be borne by the highway concessionaires for the highways, state governments for state roads and the PWD for federal roads."

It would be more reassuring if the minister would quote what standards the ministry will be following instead of the usual instant formula dished out and the prospect of spending more taxpayers' monies.

The purpose of a guard rail is to reduce death and damage and even in so-called advanced countries safety barriers can cause more deaths if they are not properly designed.

I would imagine if a barrier can "withstand the impact of a crash" there would be very little chance of survial in a small car that could be completely wrecked against guardrails "made of steel" that is stronger than existing guardrails which deform and absorb some of the energy of the crash vehicle.

If a vehicle is out of control, this is the ideal scenario for minimal loss of lives:

1.The vehicle hits the guardrail and does not "bounce" off it into the paths of oncoming or following vehicles.

2.If the speed is too great the guardrail should deform but not break and cause more serious damage.

If a driver is in some control of the vehicle he should be able to come to a safe stop but we really cannot design any safe barrier for a bus that is speeding at 110kph and out of control.

I had this experience on the BKExpressway in Singapore about 3 years ago.
It was about 2:30pm and I was about 500m behind a car travelling at about 100kph.
It was like a slow-motion movie.
The car in front started weaving across the 2 lanes of the BKE and then it hit the right guard rail. It then cut across and hit the left guardrail and turned turtle and there was a shower of sparks as the roof dragged along the road on the left-most lane.

The moment I saw the car hit the first rail, I had slowed down and by the time I reached the stricken car, the driver was crawling out of the vehicle.

Since we do have OSHA in Malaysia they should specify what type of guardrails are appropriate.

Photo: Safety barrier in JB city. Now into third month of neglect.


1 comment:

donaldghtan said...

Yah! Yah! Sami, Only Superman is made of steel. Just imagine that all 40+ passengers ( in a bus) survives the impact but loses all their teeth! Duh!