Local parents take fight for cable barriers to Baton Rouge - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Local parents take fight for cable barriers to Baton Rouge

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(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)

"Always smiling, always laughing, singing, dancing."

With an automatic smile, Kelly Hatfield remembers her daughter, though the pain of 16-year-old Megan Mote's death simmers just below the surface.

"She loved God, she loved her family, she loved friends. You couldn't help but to smile or laugh when you saw her. She just had that presence about her."

Megan, who would have turned 18 on January 23, was killed on July 6th 2012, when the car she was riding in on I-20 in Bossier Parish crossed the center median, and slammed head-on into an SUV and an 18-wheeler.

Her friend, 17-year-old Arien Manshack, who was driving, also died in that crash.

"The 5:30pm news aired and it was showing the wreck on the news and I had no idea, had no idea. You know, I remember looking at the tv and thinking, 'gosh, that looks bad. I hope they're okay.' And just for a split second, my mind went, 'where's Megan?'", Hatfield recalls.

It's best described as a bitter-sweet time for Hatfield and other local families, as they watch the wire cable barriers go up along I-20.

The barriers are credited with preventing deadly crossover accidents, but the families can't help but wonder if things would have turned out differently had the barriers been here years ago.

"It has turned from trying to get the cable barriers installed in that area where it should have already been installed, to now hopefully having it throughout Louisiana."

Ground first broke on the barriers last August, but it's only been in the last month that installation has actually begun.

Hatfield recently took her fight to expand the barriers to Baton Rouge, along with Tammy Wilson, who's daughter - 28-year-old Casey Colley - was also killed in a crossover accident on LA Hwy 3132 in December 2013.

"I feel like we had to get up and fight for this when it should have already been done," states an emotional Hatfield in front of the Appropriations Committee at the State Legislature.

"Before I lost Casey, I never truly realized the vast importance of cable median barriers on our roadways," remarked Wilson, sitting next to Hatfield, during that same meeting.

Studies show the barriers are effective at cushioning the blow of an impact, and slowing down a vehicle without throwing it back into traffic.

Texas officials say their cable barriers have reduced crash fatalities by more than 90%.

Right now, the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development is in the process of installing 28 miles of wire cable barriers on I-20 through Bossier and Webster Parishes, and another 28 miles in Caddo and Bienville.

Seven south Louisiana parishes have seen the barriers completed for years.

DOTD plans to install a total of 330 miles of the barriers along five different interstate highways over the next three years.

But Hatfield and Wilson are aiming higher.

"We must get the cable median barriers installed [on these busy highways] at a rapid pace. Not like what we've done in the past with our interstates," states Wilson before the committee.

Wilson asks the Appropriations Committee to consider a grim scenario: "You and your spouse and children, or grandchildren, are driving down the highway, and in less than the blink of an eye, another vehicle is going to come flying toward you."

She pleads with the committee to imagine which safety project they would have chosen to fund, if their lives suddenly depended on it.

"I believe the answer is a no-brainer. It's the cable median barriers, guys," she says purposefully.

"The most severe crashes are those that cross the median and hit, a lot of times, other vehicles head on," confirms Trooper Brett Davis with the Louisiana State Police.

A fact that will forever haunt parents like Hatfield nd Wilson.

"She'll never be married, she'll never have children. I'll never have grandchildren that are a part of her," Hatfield says tearfully.

Two other teens were injured - one severely - in the crash that killed Megan and Arien.

The cable barrier projects in Northwest Louisiana will cost $8 million, with another $30 million planned for 167 miles along Interstates 10, 210, 12, and 55 in seven parishes in South Louisiana.

81 miles are already complete on I-10 and I-12.

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