Vehicle accidents involving power poles have almost doubled in the Sacramento region over the last ten years. That has SMUD crews actively working to reduce the number of such incidents. Crews are starting by re-locating poles where possible.
“We’re basically working with the local agencies to see if we can get right-of-ways or if it’s even available for us to move it further off the roadway,” said SMUD’s Jason McAlister. “In some cases, you might move it to the other side of the road. We’ve had some situations for poles that have been on a sharp curve or something.”
Crews are also installing reflective strips and using what they're calling ‘Raptor Technology’ in the effort.
“It looks like a big SpongeBob,” said McAlister with a smile. “It’s a big, yellow barrier that’s made out of resin that wraps around the pole. It’s kind of wedge shaped on both sides and has kind of a polymer inside that helps reduce the impact to the vehicle and to the person.”
In addition to reducing risks for utility workers, SMUD also hopes to prevent power outages. Even while “car into pole” accidents make up just five percent of all outages, they typically account for a quarter of the actual time customers are without power.