2004 December 12 Sunday
Why Not Drape Road Accident Scenes?

Car accidents on highways cause huge traffic snarls even if the wrecked vehicles are not blocking traffic. Why? because people slow down to look at the cars and people and mess on the road hoping they will see something gory and interesting. They want to know what happened. Well how about a simple solution: The highway patrol cars ought to have extendable metal poles and big thin sheets of fabric that allow them to very rapidly put draping around the accident area so that passing vehicles will not see anything to slow down to look at. Take away the ability to look and people will not slow down as much. Traffic flows will be less disrupted by accidents.

Anyone ever seen this done? It seems like an obvious enough idea that I figure I can't be the first person to think of it.

It might take a special vehicle to bring the draping materials to set up the covering. But ambulances are dispatched and additional patrol cars are dispatched to major road accidents on busy freeways and highways. So a pick-up truck could be dispatched to any accident scene that is going to take some time to clean up.

This seems like a pretty cheap idea to try. Poles designed for camping or even for roadside construction could be used. The draping should be high enough to obscure the view even if there is a hill and cars are coming down the hill. So it might need to be 10 or 15 or 20 feet tall. Obviously the needs would differ depending on the terrain. But at least in some terrain the needed height would be manageable.

One problem would be wind. In areas where there is a lot of wind there would be a need for heavier poles and wider and heavier ground footprints on the poles.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 December 12 11:25 PM  Solutions Practical

Engineer-Poet said at December 13, 2004 4:44 AM:

Doesn't pass the liability test; the first time the drape tore loose and caused an accident itself, it would be the last time it was used anywhere.

It would make more sense to set up signs ahead in traffic saying "NO RUBBERNECKING, VIOLATORS TICKETED" and then put cameras on telescoping poles to see who is slowing down to gawk.

Chris said at December 14, 2004 11:25 AM:

1. Cuts down on sunlight necessary and beneficial for rescue, photography of evidence, etc.
2. A non-priority compared to rescue, photography of evidence, etc.
3. The slow-down helps, or at least does not harm the rescuers or police on the scene; the slower the vehicles passing by, the safer, the less wind created, etc.
4. How much draping do we bring along? Just one more thing to pack in the police car. Or do the ambulances bring it? The fire department? Whose job is it anyway?

Chris said at February 23, 2005 3:03 PM:

Whaddya know! Looks like Boston's doing it:

"Screens hide crashes from curious drivers" --Amanda Pinto, Globe Correspondent, February 23, 2005, Boston Globe:

"Massive curtains were drawn yesterday at the scene of a tractor-trailer rollover on Interstate 93 north in Somerville, where MassHighway utilized its newest weapon against traffic snarls caused by rubber-necking drivers."
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2005/02/23/screens_hide_crashes_from_curious_drivers/ via Fark.com.

Chris said at February 23, 2005 3:05 PM:

ps: It appears I stand corrected and owe Mr. Parker my compliments.

Randall Parker said at February 23, 2005 3:15 PM:


Thanks for coming back and posting that link. Very interesting. Good for Governor Mitt Romney for promoting this idea. Wonder where he got it from.

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