Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Emergency Markers Make for a Still Merry Christmas

It was a cold evening on Dec. 23, and my husband, my three small children and I along with our big, red dog, luggage and Christmas gifts were all packed tightly into our minivan and traveling on Interstate 70 to visit relatives. I was enjoying my early Christmas gift of a personal DVD player with the headphones on (have you ever traveled with small kids?), when my husband tapped my shoulder and informed me that our vehicle had um, well, quit working. So with children screaming, and the dog barking, I called roadside assistance for help and when they asked us exactly where we were. The one happy moment in this whole situation was that I was able to look out my window and read the information off the nearest emergency reference marker.

Roadside reference markers originally were installed on 1,200 miles of Missouri interstates in 2006 to replace older markers and to save time, money and most importantly- lives!

The markers provide the road’s name and direction of travel, information that the old mile markers lacked. The signs are installed every 0.2 miles, as opposed to every mile, to provide motorists more accurate location information in emergency situations. The markers also replace the white reflective posts, which were installed every 0.1 mile. The new signs are larger, more durable and reflective and require less maintenance, which will save the department money and improve safety.

Thankfully, ours wasn’t an emergency situation, but as many travelers have found, these markers are a big help in emergencies. Emergency responders have been able to get to incidents more quickly thanks to the information from these markers.

Overall, the new markers also save MoDOT maintenance costs because the department will use only half as many devices, which means fewer obstacles to mow around and less maintenance work needed. In addition, the new signs are expected to last up to 10 years, compared to the average two-year life expectancy of the old signs.

Missouri was one of the first states in the nation to make extensive use of these markers, but other states are now using them in growing numbers.

So while Christmas 2010 will still go down as being one of the most expensive holidays ever in our family’s history (due to vehicle repairs and not gifts), it was still a merry one thanks to getting where we needed to be safely.