SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today's Why Guy question comes from Sharon, who asks, why aren't there any guardrails on some of the local two lane roads, especially when there are drainage ditches on the side of the road?

California has 395,000 miles of roads, second only to Texas. Many of our roads need attention, especially those backroads you're asking about. However, installing guard rails is cost prohibitive. They can cost anywhere from $35-$75 per square linear foot, so that's fiscally problematic. A Caltrans representative says it's a dollars and safety discussions as to where they're placed.

"Typically, guard rails are used in areas where there's a known danger that a motorist can drive off the road into a steep embankment or into a river," Dennis Keaton Public Information Officer for Caltrans, said. 

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California has changeable terrain, from wide open freeways to winding mountain climbing roads. Accident reports help determine where new guardrails might go, along with Caltrans doing their own homework.

"Our Traffic Safety Unit will assess the risks involved, like how winding the freeway turns are, the visibility or sight distance and whether a guardrail is appropriate for a location or not," Keaton said.

In a 2015 report about two-lane rural roads, it was determined that in roads without guardrails, each driving fatality cost society about $2 million while serious injury crashes cost approximately $200,000 per accident. 

Bottom line, guardrails save lives, and money, over time. But, with money tight, guard rails won't pop up overnight.

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