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NTSB Determines that Median Barriers Could Have Prevented New Jersey Traffic Accident

                      NTSB PRESS RELEASE

National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594





Washington, D.C. - In a report adopted today, the National 
Transportation Safety Board determined that alcohol 
impairment caused a driver to lose control of his vehicle in 
a Linden, New Jersey traffic accident. In the report, the 
Board noted that had a median barrier been present at the 
accident site the vehicle likely would not have crossed into 
oncoming traffic, killing six people. "Accidents like this 
are why eliminating hard core drinking and driving is on our 
Most Wanted list," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker.

        The accident occurred on May 1, 2003 at about 2:00 in 
the morning when an off-duty police officer driving a 
Mercedes CLK320 south on U.S. Route 1 lost control of his 
vehicle, mounted and crossed a six-inch-high raised curb, 
and entered the northbound lanes where he collided with a 
Ford Taurus occupied by a driver and four passengers. All 
five occupants in the Taurus and the Mercedes driver were 
killed in the crash.

        The investigation determined that during the evening 
prior to the accident the Mercedes driver stopped at a local 
bar, attended a softball game where beer was present, and 
then returned to the local bar. Although no one at the bar 
or the softball game recalled seeing him drink alcohol, 
toxicology tests on the Mercedes driver reported a blood 
alcohol concentration of .326 percent. 

        The Board uses a BAC of .15 percent or greater as one 
of the defining criteria for a hard core drinking driver. 
Therefore the Board reiterated a previous recommendation, H-
00-26, asking New Jersey to establish a comprehensive 
program designed to reduce the incidence of alcohol-related 
crashes, injuries, and fatalities caused by hard core 
drinking drivers.   

        Contributing to the severity of the crash was the lack 
of a median barrier at the accident site. Guidelines 
provided by the American Association of State Highway 
Transportation Officials, and adopted by New Jersey 
Department of Transportation, suggest that raised curb 
medians, like the six-inch-high median at the site, are best 
used on low-speed urban arterial roadways.  The guidelines 
further note that on high-speed roads striking a raised curb 
median can cause a vehicle to trip, overturn, or become 
airborne.  Current median barrier guidelines are inadequate 
for determining when to install a median barrier at sites 
like the accident site.

        Although the accident segment of U.S. Route 1 has a 
posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour, traffic surveys 
showed that the median nighttime traffic speed was 62 mph. 
The Board recommended that the Federal Highway 
Administration and AASHTO work together to establish 
criteria for determining when to install median barriers on 
high-speed, high-volume roadways regardless of access type. 
 The Board also recommended that the City of Linden develop 
and implement a speed enforcement plan for U.S. Route 1.

        A synopsis of the Board's report including a complete 
listing of conclusions and recommendations is available on 
the Highway Publications page on the Board's website, 


Media Contact:  Lauren Peduzzi
                        (202) 314-6100


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