Reducing Vehicle Submersions and Consequent Fatalities on Highway I-75 in Florida (Alligator Alley): 
Effectiveness of a Cable Safety Barrier System

Gerren McDonald1, 2, Gordon G. Giesbrecht1, *
1 Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, University of Manitoba, 
Winnipeg, Canada, R3T 2N2,
2 Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health, University of Winnipeg, 
Winnipeg, Canada, R3B 2E9,



Up to 10% of drownings occur in submersed vehicles.


We evaluated the effectiveness of a cable safety barrier (CSB) system in preventing run-off-road (ROR) vehicle immersions (VIs) and fatalities in canals along the I-75 freeway (Alligator Alley) in Collier County, Florida. The CSB system runs along both sides of the 80-km stretch of freeway and was installed between 2003 and 2004.


Data from the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) were used to compare annual VIs and VI fatalities between pre-installation of the CSB system (1995-2002) and post-installation (2005-2012). Post-installation data from the Florida Department of Transport (FDOT) (2007-2011) and police reports were reviewed to determine the number of, and the manner in which, vehicles were either contained by or crossed, the CSB by either penetrating or overriding the barriers.


Pre- to post-installation, total accidents increased from 81.4/y to 106.2/y; accidents resulting in VIs decreased from 13.8% to 2.4%, and accidents resulting in VI fatalities decreased from 3.4% to 0.4% (FDOT). Fatal vehicle immersions decreased from 2.4/y to 0.9/y (p < 0.01) and vehicle immersion fatalities decreased from 3.3/y to 1.4/y (p < 0.05) (FARS). Post-installation, 531 accidents occurred with 110 ROR vehicles travelling towards the canals; 91 vehicles contacted the CSB with only 14 vehicles (15.4%) penetrating the barrier, and 7 (7.7%) overriding the barrier (FDOT).


The CSB system along highway I-75 in Collier County dramatically decreased ROR vehicles from reaching the parallel canals and consequent vehicle immersion fatalities. The results support the installation of lateral CSB systems on other high-risk roadways to reduce ROR crashes into the water or through other secondary hazards.

Keywords: Vehicle immersion fatalities, Accident prevention, Barrier penetration, Barrier.

Abstract Information

Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2021
Volume: 15
Publisher Item Identifier: EA-TOTJ-2021-1

Article History:

Electronic publication date: 2/7/2021
Collection year: 2021

© 2021 McDonald & Giesbrecht.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Correspondence: Address correspondence to this author at Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Canada; Tel: 204-474-8646; E-mail: