BRISTOL, Va. — A guardrail will be installed along a section of Old Abingdon Highway in Bristol, Virginia, where police and bystanders rescued a woman and her child who crashed into the nearby creek earlier this year.
The city’s Transportation Safety Commission voted recently to upgrade the existing guardrail in the curve where the crash occurred on April 8, according to Transportation Planner Jay Detrick.
The committee also voted to extend the guardrail approximately 200 feet around the curve toward the American Merchant entrance. The exact distance will be determined in the field, Detrick said.
In April, Sydney Hopkins, 20, of Abingdon, Virginia, was driving a Toyota SUV on Old Abingdon Highway when she hit an oil patch and hydroplaned, she told the Bristol Herald Courier.
Another driver, Travis Campbell, who lives nearby, was heading in the opposite direction with his family when they saw the SUV travel around the curve and lose control.
The vehicle crossed the road, went through the grass and nosedived into the creek in front of the American Merchant facility.
The Campbells, other bystanders and two police officers quickly went into action to save Hopkins and her child, who were both trapped in the vehicle. Both were rescued.
Following the crash, Hopkins and Campbell said they believed something needed to be done to the curve to prevent future crashes.
“They definitely need to do something to prevent this from happening again,” Hopkins said.
Detrick began examining the curve and said that possible corrections included an extended guardrail, added signs or a suggested lower speed limit at the curve.
Between 2014 and 2018, Detrick said there were seven crashes at the site.
Detrick said the current speed limit on Old Abingdon Highway is 25 mph.
“We did some field work to find out if the curves needed to be at a lower speed,” Detrick said. “They meet the requirements for being 25 mph.”
Detrick said the committee approved plans to replace and improve the existing guardrail in the curve and extend it to near the American Merchant facility.
He added that if a guardrail had been in place at the time of the crash, “they would have hit the guardrail.”
Campbell said his family is “absolutely tickled to death and very appreciative of our city leaders” for responding to their plea for help to make the road safer during wet and slippery conditions.
“My children and I just smiled real big and commented how awesome this accomplishment is to install the guardrails up to prevent any more vehicles in the creek, and we pray that this preventive measurement will save lives in the future,” said Campbell, whose children assisted in rescuing the woman and child in April.
“Man, what a relief,” he said.
Detrick said the city’s Public Works Department will determine how to install the guardrail, which may be covered by state funds.
“I honestly feel much better knowing they’re gonna put the guardrails up,” Hopkins said when hearing the news this week.