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You have seen it happen on highways, and you have seen it in movies. Maybe you did it once, or maybe your son or daughter did it in their early years of driving. In the snow, in the sun, under questionable circumstances, it happens at any time. Cars collide with light posts at high speeds, creating an impact strong enough to bend the post in place, knocking it onto the car that just hit it and injuring the passengers within. Cars are heavy machines that transfer an amazing amount of brute force when they hit an object at even low speeds. However, engineers have realized that the danger of driving can be mitigated with a more "flexible" infrastructure. Hence, break away light posts and configurations. These are posts that are held onto their base by couplings or other specialized features that give when they are struck by a fast-moving vehicle. The idea behind these designs is that when a vehicle strikes the post, the couplings or bolts give away, releasing the light post. The post then flips over the vehicle as the vehicle moves past the base of the light post. As the post lands on the ground behind the vehicle, the passengers inside wipe away a bit of sweat as they realize that they have been spared from a very large object landing on their car. While most types of lamp posts can be custom ordered with break away components, cement posts cannot be used for that purpose at all. They are heavy and usually built into the ground, whereas light posts that use break away configurations are suspended above the base of the post. Aluminum poles do not even need break-away components because, due to the inherent nature of their make-up, they already break when struck by a fast-moving vehicle, according to Mike Kempf of Union Metal. Break-away lamp posts are manufactured according to regulations published by the American Association of Street, Highway and Transportation Officials, or AASHTO. Regulations cover their dimensions and how the posts must be able to give in to impact. Each state then supplies its own additional regulations on the types of light posts they allow on their roads. Break-away light posts are generally used for city, state, and county roads where vehicles travel above 55 miles per hour. Some light post manufacturers also make their own break-away components such as Valmont, who manufactures their own couplings. However, many purchase their components from specialized manufacturers. There are several types of components available. Below is an example of the kinds of components some manufacturers use, and the types of posts with which they pair them.

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December 8, 2019, 8:43 am PDT

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