7 Things You Should Know About Jersey Barrier

Jersey barriers, also known as Jersey walls and Jersey bumps, are concrete or plastic barriers used to separate lanes of traffic. These barriers were originally designed to prevent highway vehicles from veering out of their lane and into oncoming traffic, but they’ve since been adapted for use in construction zones to protect workers, city sidewalks to protect pedestrians, and even in warzones to ward against attacks such as vehicle bombs. Here are seven things you should know about used Jersey barrier:

1) There’s a Story Behind Their Name

Before the Jersey Barrier, wooden beam guardrails were used to divide highway traffic. Unfortunately, these guardrails were weak and did little to stop serious head-on collisions. The first concrete road barriers were introduced in California in 1946 along “Dead Man’s Curve”—a dangerous, sloped stretch of road notorious for causing head-on collisions—as a solution to the growing issue of deadly accidents. A few years after the introduction of these concrete partitions, the state of New Jersey decided to invest in developing similar structures to use on their own hazardous stretches of highway. These barriers are now the standard we see today, hence the name “Jersey barrier.”

2) They’re Often Made of Concrete, But Not Always

A typical Jersey barrier is made of steel-reinforced poured concrete. The embedded steel reinforcements protrude from each end, allowing the barriers to be linked together with additional concrete that can be poured on site. In this way, the barriers can be made permanent.

Some situations, however, call for barriers that are temporary or easy to move. In these cases, hollow polyethylene barriers may be used. These plastic barriers are usually filled with water or sand after being place on site to provide a level of crash protection and stability. Unlike their concrete counterparts, plastic Jersey barriers are not designed to deflect vehicles, and cars may still crash through them.

3) They’re More Sophisticated Than They Seem

Jersey barriers are not only designed to stop head-on collisions, but also to minimize the damage to the incoming car. In common shallow-angle hits, the vehicle’s tires ride up the lower sloped face of the barrier, which forces the vehicle to pivot away from oncoming traffic and back into its original direction. Furthermore, this “slide” and redirection up the side of the barrier can prevent vehicles from rolling over.

4) In Addition to Preventing Collisions, Jersey Barriers Save Money

When Jersey barriers were introduced, their function was twofold: they would minimize the number of out-of-control vehicles penetrating highway barriers while also eliminating the need for costly (and dangerous) repairs to damaged medians. This is particularly apt in highway locations with high accident rates and narrow medians. With the use of Jersey barriers, highways are not only safer for drivers, but they’re more cost-effective and safer for road workers, too.

5) They’ve Gotten Larger Over Time

Originally, Jersey barriers measured 19 inches high and 30 inches wide. Though the original barriers successfully reduced wrecks, New Jersey state highway engineers continued to improve the design, creating progressively larger models based on the number of accidents observed while the barriers were in use. (Interestingly, the barriers were not tested in a controlled setting before implementation, and data for their redesign was based on real-world crash statistics). Today, the standard Jersey barrier is 32 inches tall with a 13-inch side slope.

6) They Are Sometimes Confused with F-Shape Barriers

As mentioned above, Jersey barriers are designed to prevent rollover accidents. However, if a car is too small, Jersey barriers are less effective and the car might roll over anyway. For this reason, an alternate barrier was created, called the F-Shape barrier. F-Shape barriers have the same 3-inch-high base as a Jersey barrier, but they feature a side that slopes 10 inches above the pavement (rather than the 13-inch side slope of the Jersey barrier), which better allows them to absorb proportional impacts from smaller vehicles.

7) They’ve Been Adapted for a Wide Array of Uses

Though Jersey barriers began as a highway partition, they’ve since been adapted for a wide array of uses. Today, Jersey barriers are commonly employed as a generic, portable barrier during construction projects, or to temporarily reroute traffic on highways during rush hour. Similarly, the U.S. military nicknamed the barriers “Qaddafi Blocks” after truck bomb attacks in Beirut in 1982 resulted in more widespread use of the barriers in military operations. Jersey barriers are sometimes deployed to slow traffic arriving at a military base or other secure area.

Not sure which barrier wall is permissible in your state? Check out our blogs on barrier wall variations and key regulations in Florida, Ohio, and Texas.


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