A new road barrier designed by engineering faculty at the University of Florida for the Florida Department of Transportation may make construction zones measurably safer for both workers and motorists.
As a bonus, the new barriers are less expensive and easier to install, take apart and move than traditional barriers.
From the law firm's West Palm Beach office, Akerman Senterfitt associate Michael K. Dixon represented the University of Florida and worked with the inventors to get patent No. 6,767,158.
Citing statistics from the Texas Transportation Institute, Akerman Senterfitt said an average 27 people die each year in Florida and nearly 2,500 are injured in road construction zone accidents.
The law firm said the low-profile (18 inches tall and 28 inches wide) concrete barrier designed by Gary R. Consolazio, Kurtis Robert Gurley and Ralph D. Ellis at the University of Florida substantially increases driver visibility, compared to conventional temporary barriers.
The barriers come in 12-foot segments joined together with coupling pins and can be disassembled or rearranged as construction zone changes occur, according to Akerman Senterfitt.
The law firm said the barriers do not need to be anchored to the road to function properly.
"The connection mechanisms used to connect conventional barriers together must often be precisely positioned, which takes a considerable amount of time," Dixon said. "In contrast, the connection mechanism of the new, low-profile barrier has a larger tolerance for misalignment, which enables the barriers to be coupled together much more quickly."
Dixon also said the connection mechanism transfers forces of cars impacting the barrier to adjacent barriers to keep the cars on the roadway.
In separate crash tests, the law firm said the barrier successfuly deflected the impact of a 4,400-pound pickup truck hitting at a 25-degree angle and a small passenger car hitting at a 20-degree angle without rollover or either vehicle crashing.
Researchers did most of the design and test research on the university's civil engineering supercomputers and computer simulation software. This helped it avoid repeated crash tests, which cost $20,000 each.
The FDOT said it expects to begin using the low-profile barriers next year in urban and suburban highway construction zones where speed limits do not exceed 45 mph.