VDOT: No impact buffer in place where car hit guardrail

Guard rail safety

BRISTOL, Va. - A guardrail tore through a car during a crash in Smyth County over the weekend. The Virginia Department of Transportation has now told us there was not an impact buffer in place where the car hit the guardrail.

Virginia State Police said the accident happened on Interstate 81 when Jacob Henley, 22, drove his car into the back of a tractor trailer, went across the median and hit a guardrail head-on.

The guardrail went through the front of the car, into the driver's side, and out the other end. VPS said the driver walked away with minor injuries.

We talked to an engineer with VDOT, John Bechtold, who said that end of the guardrail did not have an impact buffer, which would have redirected the car.

He told us there was a buffer on the other end of the guardrail, in the direction of oncoming traffic.

Bechtold said the median at this section of I-81 was about 60 feet wide. It takes about 30 feet for a car to stop on its own, said Bechtold.

"Where the crash occurred is about 60 feet from the edge of the lane to where the guardrail was, so that's about twice of what we'd expect cars to slow down at," he said.

Bechtold said that's one of the reasons there wasn't a buffer on both ends of the guardrail. "In locations where the guardrail is away from traffic, in more than 30 foot area, sometimes we just do a standard end treatment," Bechtold said.

He told us he's never seen an accident with these circumstances.

Guardrails do have buffers on both ends in places where the median is 30 feet wide or less, Bechtold said.

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