Andrew Hawkinberry wasn't the first person killed in an Interstate 20 "crossover" crash.
It's too bad the 8-year-old Harlem boy wasn't the last, either, when he was killed in September 2002 on the way to see his big brother play football. "Little Hawk's" death likely could have been prevented.
As the recent, four-fatality crash on Bobby Jones Expressway reminds us, aiming two lines of high-speed vehicles at each other with nothing separating them but a strip of grass is deadly.
The fault for that crash lies almost entirely with the drunk behind the wheel of the speeding pickup that went out of control, crossed the highway and slammed into oncoming traffic.
Not so with this past April's death of Lloyd Graybeal of Martinez, whose vehicle hydroplaned on Interstate 20 and slid into the oncoming lanes. Nor with local boys Tariq Fischer, Imran Khan and Mohammad Hassan, killed three months later in a similar crash. Nor was it the case in many of the 80 interstate crossover deaths in Georgia between 2002 and 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
In many of those deaths, much of the fault can be placed on dangerous qualities of the high-speed highways themselves, and on the fact that grass isn't very efficient at stopping an out-of-control car.
Fortunately, the Georgia Department of Transportation is taking notice.
Construction crews already are halfway into a project to install 30 miles of cable barriers between Belair Road in Martinez and Star Route 80 in Warren County.
Columbia County School Board trustee Roxanne Whitaker, whose district includes Harlem, endlessly cajoled government officials to install the barriers, even contacting the governor for action. "This may or may not have influenced the cables, but whatever the reason, I am glad they are going up," Whitaker says. "I just hate (that) it is four years too late to prevent the loss of so many lives especially, Andrew's."
The cables aren't as substantial as the concrete walls the DOT plans to build along unprotected portions of Bobby Jones Expressway " but they aren't as expensive, either, meaning the DOT is able to install the cables now rather than waiting on more funds.
Besides, similar barriers in South Carolina have been incredibly effective at saving lives; according to federal statistics, fewer than 1 percent of the vehicles striking Carolina's cables have crossed into oncoming traffic.
The cables won't divide all of Interstate 20, stopping short of the stretch in which Fischer, Khan and Hassan were killed. And they're too late to save Andrew and Graybeal. So, literally, they are too little, and they are too late.
But they're also better late than never.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.