When you drive home along the Florida coastline, you glance to either side and awe at the beautiful view. However, you don’t see as much as you’d like because guardrails block your line of sight. Or perhaps you notice these dividers and wonder why they stand on the side of the road and separate traffic. Maybe you see construction workers repairing or adding guardrails along your daily drive route.
Just like you don’t ponder much on road lights, you probably don’t think about guardrails often. Yet these barriers add security to roads and protect you from harm while you drive. Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about guardrails and why these dividers matter so much to you as a motorist or pedestrian.
What Purpose Does a Guardrail Serve?
As previously mentioned, a guardrail acts as a barrier or divider. Construction workers build these devices from various materials, including:
- Shaped sheets of metal
- Metal or wood posts
- Metal chain links
Depending on where you live, you’ll also find different types of guardrails, such as:
- Temporary fence-like barriers (usually on sidewalks)
- Short wooden fences (like those found in more rural areas)
- Tall wood and barbed-wire fences (including those found near farms)
- Large barrels of water (such as those found in highway construction zones)
- High concrete walls with metal panels on top (also found on roadway construction sites)
Construction workers assemble guardrails and place them in any of the following locations:
- Between lanes on the highway to separate traffic that flows in opposite directions
- Along the sides of roads, cliffs, bridges, or other precarious areas to prevent drivers from veering off course
- In between roadsides and walking paths to keep walkers, joggers, tourists, and other passersby safe as they maneuver around these locations
Road workers typically use metal guardrails on main highways and roads. You will see other rail types along less-frequented streets.
How Do Guardrails Work?
Now that you know what guardrails look like and what purpose they serve, you need to understand exactly how these roadside instruments function.
According to the Department of Transportation, engineers work with construction workers to determine where rails will have maximum efficacy. They take the guardrail’s materials, height, length, and other factors into account during this process.
Additionally, these experts consult together to make sure that the guardrail’s two key components perform properly. We’ll discuss these components below.
The Guardrail Face
Simply put, this term refers to the length of the rail that extends along the side of the road, sidewalk, or another area. It protects wandering vehicles or persons from veering into off-limits or dangerous territory. Should a car or individual stray towards the guardrail, it redirects them back onto the highway, road, or pathway.
The End Terminal
When you look at a guardrail, you notice that it doesn’t look like a continuous apparatus. Though guardrails do run for extended lengths, they do not span over unending stretches of road and sidewalk. Guardrails have a starting and ending point. You can easily recognize the end terminal by the black and yellow reflective stripes that rest on its edge.
This terminal allows the guardrail to absorb heavy impact along its length. As a result, the barrier as a whole can better protect drivers and passersby from more serious injuries.
For example, if you were in a car and hit a guardrail head on, the barrier consumes the impact force and slows your vehicle down. You may pass through and behind the barrier, but at a reduced speed. This result prevents you and your car from sustaining more damage.
If you hit the guardrail from an angle or the side, the divider would, again, absorb the impact force and bend the rail slightly outward. This feature allows you to correct your vehicle’s position accordingly.
Why Do Construction Workers Repair Guardrails?
Since guardrails exist solely to protect you and others from serious harm as you drive or walk around, you can guess that repairs serve a similar purpose. In fact, construction workers state that appropriate guardrail repair and maintenance greatly aids public and travel safety.
After a collision, these technicians must quickly repair any damage to the divider so it functions properly again. They will also clear debris from the accident site and keep sharp, dangerous objects out of drivers’ and walkers’ routes.
How Do Guardrails Affect You?
By now, you’ve learned everything you need to know about guardrails. This knowledge will help you understand why our roads need these protective devices. So the next time you drive down the highway and see repairmen fixing or installing guardrails, recall the answers to the questions above.
Even if you can’t pull over and thank these individuals for keeping roads and walkways secure to drive and walk on, you can remember how much this service benefits you and keeps you safe.