LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Call them the great dividers: Cable barriers.
They stretch down the middle of interstates 71, 64 and 65 in the Metor area, the Gene Snyder Freeway and portions of the Watterson Expressway. They wrap around Jefferson and Bullitt counties, and are still being installed in areas of Oldham County.
Crossover crashes became a real dilemma for this area, and in the three year period before their installation in 2007, 26 people died in Metro Louisville. Since the cable barriers have been in the medians. Only one crossover death has been recorded.
In rare examples, although not designed to do it, cable barriers will stop a semi, like the one that ran off I-71 in Jefferson County. The cable seared right through the bumper and held the tires in place.
“Fatalities for median cross over crashes have dropped everywhere that median cable barriers have been installed to date,” Chuck Wolfe on the Kentucky Department of Transportation said.
According to the KDOT, last year alone in Jefferson County the barriers were hit by 224 drivers and repaired at 224 locations at a cost of $235,000.
“Oh, they saved my life,” Jennifer Barnett said.
Her car was totaled when she was hit by a drunken driver. She said she was driving along the Gene Snyder Freeway near Stonestreet Road last July 4, around 10 p.m. when she was hit.
“Next thing I know I’m being hit from behind,” Barnett said. “I automatically knew that I was hit. It was like, ‘oh!’ I just started losing control and I just had to hang on.”
The damage to her car was sustained when she hit the cable barrier, not from the car that hit her.
According to the police report, Sharon Parker was driving the vehicle that struck Barnett and she had a BAC of .131 at the time of the accident. Police also said Parker was driving aggressively before she slammed into Barnett.
“Just a big crash, just a big boom, my airbags deployed,” Barnett said.
Barnett said the cable barriers not only stopped her, but sealed her in, wrapping her car tightly.
“I freaked out and I was like ‘I’m trapped,’ and I saw the cable barrier at that point and I’m like ‘I’m in between it,” she said.
Jacob Ovesen, a young chef at Sullivan University, said he will never forget his crash on I-65 after his tire blew.
“When I was spinning I just felt like it was going to roll,” Ovesen said. “The next thing I knew I was spinning across all three lanes and I was starting to face south and then back across all lanes into the cable barrier.”
The barrier held his car in place and barely put a scratch on the exterior.
“It saved my life. If it hadn’t been for the cable barrier I would have flipped,” Ovesen said.
Even though Kentucky buys the highest-test, most expensive steel for its barriers, they don't work in every case.
Three sisters left behind to mourn their mother, Nancy Raisor, said they know all to well sometimes the just don’t work.
Raisor was involved in an accident on the Gene Snyder Freeway last July. Shortly after 8 a.m. police said Raisor and her sister were riding in a truck when they were struck from behind by an speeding 18-year-old driving a Honda Civic.
The crash sent the pick up into the median, where it hit the cable barrier and flipped over it five to six times, police said.
“I always thought they were there to help and in this case it didn't help. It didn't stop the truck in no kind of way,” Raisor’s daughter, Carol Payton, said.
Raisor did survive the crash, spending 37 days in the hospital before she died in August.
The cause of death?
The Jefferson County coroner ruled and stated on Raisor’s death certificate, “complications from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.”
So what happened in the crash?
According to the police report, inattention of the 18-year-old driver and the car was not under proper control are listed as possible causes for the unexplained collision.
“To have her life taken away by a careless driver and cable barriers that are supposed to stop a vehicle. I'm very angry,” Vicki Jorgensen, another of Raisor’s daughters, said.
Kentucky officials have always cautioned and made it clear the barriers can't stop everything.
In fact, one of Kentucky’s worst fatal traffic accidents happened in March 2010 when a fully loaded semi rolled right over the cable barrier on I-65 in Hart County, Ky.
The rig crossed the median, tore through the barrier and hit a van driving on the opposite side of the interstate. The van was carrying a Mennonite family on their way to a wedding. Eleven people died.
In August 2012, the state quietly tied the knot on the cable barrier ribbon around Jefferson County, finishing the interstates and expressways in Louisville.
There are sections, like a short stretch between Westport Road and I-71 on the Watterson Expressway, that do not have them. The state said they based that decision on research showing no history of crossover accidents.