A horrific collision between a Greyhound bus and a semi-truck on I-40 in New Mexico killed at least eight passengers and sent dozens of others to area hospitals last Friday. The crash happened near Thoreau, New Mexico, about 50 miles from the Arizona border.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said that seven bodies were recovered from the scene of Thursday afternoon’s accident. Another person died after being taken to a hospital for treatment.
Early information indicated the semi was headed east when it blew a tire, sending the rig across the median and into oncoming traffic where it smashed into the bus, New Mexico State Police said.
The crash is known as a “crossover crash.” Crossover crashes occur when a vehicle leaves the roadway, crosses the median, and ends up in the opposing travel lanes.
Based on video and photographs, it does not initially appear that any median barrier cable was present on the roadway. However, median cable barriers are commonly used by many states to help prevent crossover crashes. Studies have shown that cable barriers can prevent 95% of crossover crashes.
According to New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, the truck became “an 80,000-pound projectile”, hurtling across the median. Initial reports say that the semi-truck blew a tire, causing it to cross the median. Chief Kassetas pointed out the many passing motorists stopped to help extricate people from the bus, saving lives.
The driver of the truck survived and may provide insight as to the cause of the crash. Unfortunately, many Arizona highways lack cable median barriers, resulting in many fatal crossover crashes over the years.
Why doesn’t ADOT install median cable barriers on our highways?
According to an ABC 15 interview with ADOT official Steven Boschen, an ADOT assistant director, “cross-median crashes are rare and unpredictable, accounting for about one percent of fatalities.”
He also said the interstate’s 80-foot dirt medians are the safest option out there.
“By putting up cable barriers, we would be causing more harm than good,” Boschen said. “If we put a barrier out there, we are just introducing more harm. A barrier is a hazard, and there would be more crashes.”
According to ADOT, median cable barriers are a hazard. However, according to multiple studies, one from the U.S. Department of Transportation, cable barriers can prevent 95% of all crossover crashes.
Our condolences go to all the families who lost loved ones and those recovering from their catastrophic injuries.