Residents of some Old Belair Road subdivisions that back up to Interstate 20 have been worried sick since the start of a Department of Transpor-tation project to remove trees near the highway.
Taking out the trees, which had provided a natural barrier behind those Martinez homes, made the Caliburn Place, Belglade and Crawford Mill subdivisions a lot noisier. But those residents also worry that vehicles careening off the high-speed highway have nothing to stop them from plowing into their nearby homes. Theyve asked the DOT to build a barrier along the highway to safeguard their neighborhood.
It is another kind of interstate barrier, however, that now is on the minds of some Colum-bia County residents: A median barrier to prevent vehicles from crossing over into oncoming lanes.
Such a barrier very likely would have saved the life of little Andrew Hawkinberry just over a week ago. Riding with his parents to see his big brother Michael lead the Harlem High football team vs. Greene County, 8-year-old Andrew died when the family car slid during a rain storm in Warren County, ran across the median and struck two oncoming trucks.
Andrews parents, Raymond and Kelly Hawkinberry, and older brother Nicholas, 10, were treated at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital and later released. Rather than leading his team to victory, 18-year-old Michael - whose birthday was the day of the accident, as was his parents 20th anniversary - was forced to begin planning funeral arrangements for Andrew, who was buried Thursday.
Andrew likely could have instead rejoined his classmates at North Harlem Elementary if that section of interstate highway had median barriers installed. The South Carolina DOT has been erecting median barriers along its interstate highways for two years, and two weeks ago, the agency began installing steel post and heavy strands of cable between the east- and westbound lanes of I-20 in Aiken County.
Columbia County School Board trustee Roxanne Whitaker has taken note of those barriers as she mourns the loss of a child in one of her districts schools. In South Carolina, the highway department has installed cables in their medians to prevent cars from crossing the medians like the Hawkinberrys car, says Whitaker. On the first day they were installed in Lexington, three accidents occurred where the cars ended up in the median and were stopped by these cables.
Im not saying these cables would have saved Andrews life, but I think it is worth looking into, Whitaker says.
Shes right - and Whitaker means it when she says shell look into it. Two years ago this December, another Harlem student - 16-year-old Dawn Swett - was killed in a collision at the Pumpkin Center crossroads. Whitaker began a lobbying campaign for the installation of a traffic signal at that deadly intersection, and the Georgia DOT eventually turned the site into a four-way stop.
The push for median barriers - already in place in the metro Atlanta area - could be a tougher crusade. Whitaker deserves support, and our local lawmakers should hear from citizens urging them to push the DOT to further protect interstate travelers.
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