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Rumbling keeps drivers from drifting



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McClory (click for larger version)

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Russell (click for larger version)
January 21, 2014 | 10:10 AM
ELKHORN — Drivers that drift over the centerline while cruising down county highways may soon hear a rumbling reminder to stay in their lane.

Walworth County’s Highway Safety Commission has recommended that center lane rumble strips be installed on county highways as they are reconstructed.

“At times, when there is fog or snow on the road, it really helps to have those there,” County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell said.

The state Department of Transportation installed center lane rumble strips on several state highways in 2012. Portions of Highway 12, near Whitewater; portions of Highway 11, near Burlington; and portions of Highway 59 near Janesville have center lane rumble strips.

“To my knowledge, we have not had any head-on crashes on the roads where centerline rumble strips have been installed,” Capt. Scott McClory said. “I think this speaks volumes about their effectiveness.”

Russell said that is reason enough to add them to county roads.

“Obviously, (no crashes) is not going to happen forever, but if we can save lives, as far as I’m concerned, it is well worth doing,” she said.

Center lane rumble strips are grooves in the asphalt that run through the centerline of traffic. When tires travel over the strip, it causes a loud rumble to alert drivers that they are deviating from their lane of traffic. These grooves are often found near fog lines.

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Kevin Brunner, director of central services, said the county’s public works department has concerns about maintaining the strips. The fear is that during winter, when water enters the grooves, the water will freeze and cause cracks.

“I’m leaning toward that this is something we should be doing more of, but I want to look at the maintenance cost as well,” Brunner said. “I’m sure we will have a good debate on this one when we get to the county board.”

Brunner said the initial cost of installing these strips is between $5,000 and $6,000 per mile.

“I’m glad we are looking at it,” Brunner said. “We should always be looking at innovative ways to improve safety, especially if it can be done very cost effectively.”

Brunner said Director of Operations Larry Price surveyed other counties, and didn’t learn of any that are requiring center lane rumble strips.

“It doesn’t mean its not a good idea. We just want to make sure we are researching it thoroughly,” Brunner said.

Centerline rumble strips are used throughout the country and other parts of Wisconsin. According to the New York Department of Transportation, national studies have shown that the strips reduce accidents.

“The 2005 National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 339 was an early study that used data from a September 2003 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study on centerline rumble strips,” the New York DOT site states. “It found that head-on and opposite direction sideswipe injury crashes were reduced by an estimated 25 percent at sites treated with centerline rumble strips/stripes. This study concluded that centerline rumble strips/stripes can result in a 14 percent reduction of all crashes and a 15 percent reduction of injury crashes on rural two-lane roads.”

The website cites another study, the 2009 NCHRP “Guidance for the Design and Application of Shoulder and Centerline Rumble Strips,” which states centerline rumble strips are a “cost effective collision counter measure.”

“In this study, fatal and injury head-on and opposite direction sideswipe crashes in urban areas were reduced by an average of 64 percent,” the web sites states. “In rural areas, these types of collisions were reduced by an average of 44 percent.”

The recommendation from the Highway Safety Commission doesn’t mean that the rumble strips will be installed the next time a highway is reconstructed. It would still need approval from the full county board.

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