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Crossover cables do save lives

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By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

One hundred twenty-eight miles from my parents’ house to the sorority house.Like countless Western Kentucky University students who call the Louisville area home, Interstate 65 between Louisville and Bowling Green is as familiar to me as Western’s red towel, Big Red – the genderless mascot – and library-like smell of Cherry Hall.But there are plenty of reasons WKU doesn’t boast I-65 on brochures for prospective students.I drove I-65 south to Bowling Green mostly on Sunday afternoons during my college career, sparing just enough time to change clothes and enter a sorority meeting by 6 p.m. But my northbound trips on I-65 were much more sporadic. When my Friday class was canceled, I’d hit the road Thursday night, or worse, stay out late Thursday night and hit the road Friday morning.There are days I drove I-65 with a lack of energy and lack of focus. And it’s easy to forget those dangers knowing how many times I made it to Bowling Green and back without incident.Like many Bowling Green-bound drivers, there are stretches I drove a little bit slower, sections I drove a little bit faster, lanes I avoided for potholes and landmarks I associated with my last chance for cell phone service.I worried about what I’d do if I blew a tire while passing another vehicle, and if my top-heavy vehicle would stay upright. I never thought about how I’d react if a vehicle from opposing traffic crossed the median into my lane.Some TV viewers may remember seeing helicopter footage of a fatal I-65 crash on Derby Day. A southbound van crossed the median and collided with a Jeep traveling northbound. To most viewers, it was the crash that snarled traffic for out-of-town guests headed to Louisville for Derby and interrupted TV coverage of the hats, the horses and the pageantry. But to members of my sorority, the crash marks the day we lost Jesse from our circle of friends.Most drivers would like to think they’d see a crossover crash coming and react in time to avoid it. Of course, that’s the best case scenario. But Jesse’s family and friends – and those of an Alabama man also killed in the crash when his vehicle crossed the median – are living in the aftermath of the worst-case scenario.When crossover cables first appeared on Interstate 71, I found a bit of humor in the transformation of an interstate into an amusement park-like driving path where no driver could go astray. But in the weeks that followed the installation of crossover cables, I started noticing dings in the posts, shattered glass along the roadway and a remnants of a broken headlight here and there. More importantly, news stories of fatal crossover crashes on I-71 disappeared from TV newscasts.And now, I count myself as a believer.Crossover cables demonstrate the difference between thinking, “Wow, I got lucky” when witnessing a crash in opposing traffic, and wondering “What if?” while reading an obituary for a 23-year-old woman killed a week beforegraduation.The same afternoon Jesse died, veterinarians euthanized the second-place finisher injured following the Kentucky Derby – an action still prompting activism and debate across the nation. Horse enthusiasts are demanding change in the racing industry to ensure safety for allathletes.In the same respect, I’m hopeful Jesse’s life and the lives of other drivers lost in crossover crashes prompts similar activism for crossover cables throughout the Commonwealth.Think of the lives those cables could save, and the number of people who could say, “Wow, I got lucky.”

E-mail us about this column at: jstoess@oldhamera.com.