I would love to see these screens used locally
Screens hide crashes from curious drivers
By Amanda Pinto, Globe Correspondent
The Boston Globe, February 23 2005
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.
Seven-foot-tall by 10-foot-wide screens made of piping and vinyl material have been in use since late last year, intended to obscure accidents from passersby and keep drivers moving, officials said.
State Department of Transportation spokesman John Carlisle said that some emergency response vehicles are equipped with sets of three screens, and that 27 sets are in use statewide. Carlisle said the screens, which were assembled by the department, are employed mainly in Eastern Massachusetts, where there are more roadways and greater congestion.
"This is an idea that was brought to our attention by Governor [Mitt] Romney," Carlisle said.
Carlisle said the screens have been used 15 times. At $1,400 per set of three screens, Carlisle considers the devices "a low-tech, low-cost solution to the pretty prevalent problem of road congestion."
Massachusetts State Trooper Tom Ryan said that while it is still too early to tell whether the screens will significantly reduce traffic congestion, he said state police have requested them on several occasions. In addition to curbing congestion, Ryan said, the screens can shield the public from a graphic crash scene.
State Police reported that the tractor-trailer was carrying rock salt when it crashed at about noon, north of Exit 29 on I-93. The driver, Joseph Walorz of Braintree, lost control of the vehicle, police said.Two travel lanes and the ramp from Mystic Avenue to I-93 north were closed for about two hours. Walorz, 31, was uninjured in the accident.
The screens appear to be growing in use worldwide. According to Britain's Guardian Unlimited website, a regional Highways Agency plans to begin trials this year of a portable screen which can be clamped to crash barriers and extend for up to 200 meters around the site of an accident. The site indicates that the system is in use in The Netherlands and is part of efforts to improve the speed at which accidents are cleared on Britain's road network.
A study by the Transport Research Laboratory concluded that the screens could be "beneficial," and safety specialists gave the idea a cautious welcome, the website indicated.