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Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

KDOT trying to improve safety on two-lane highways

Rumble strips’ get road test

January 5, 2006

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Kansas Department of Transportation worker Andy Frost, Lawrence, speaks on his radio as he directs the flow of traffic on U.S. Highway 40 in a construction zone west of the junction with Kansas Highway 10. A variety of safety improvements have been made to the highway, including wider lanes and "rumble strips" installed in the middle of the roads to alert drivers when their vehicles cross the median line.

Kansas Department of Transportation worker Andy Frost, Lawrence, speaks on his radio as he directs the flow of traffic on U.S. Highway 40 in a construction zone west of the junction with Kansas Highway 10. A variety of safety improvements have been made to the highway, including wider lanes and "rumble strips" installed in the middle of the roads to alert drivers when their vehicles cross the median line.

— Jim Weaver is a big fan of "rumble strips."

He lives near U.S. Highway 40 between Lawrence and Topeka, which has been the scene of a number of gruesome head-on car accidents over the years. So he's glad state authorities put the strips along the center line of the highway, to warn drivers when they're crossing into oncoming traffic.

"I love 'em. The road's treacherous enough; we've seen enough fatalities," Weaver said Tuesday afternoon while doing some outdoor maintenance at Big Springs United Methodist Church, just a few dozen feet from the highway. "If it saves a few lives, it's worth it."

Kansas drivers are already familiar with rumble strips - grooves in the asphalt that produce a loud noise and vibration when a car passes over them - on the sides of four-lane highways.

But when the Kansas Department of Transportation resurfaced U.S. 40 last summer, it decided to include the center-line strips, part of an experiment on several two-lane highways across the state.

Rumble strips are common on shoulders of four-lane highways, but KDOT is experimenting with using them along center lines of two-lane roads. The strips will alert drivers who cross the line into the oncoming lane.

Rumble strips are common on shoulders of four-lane highways, but KDOT is experimenting with using them along center lines of two-lane roads. The strips will alert drivers who cross the line into the oncoming lane.

"There's very few accidents that are more traumatic, more dangerous than a head-on, especially with highway speeds like that," said Joe Blubaugh, a spokesman for KDOT's northeast Kansas district. "If you fall asleep or drift and hit those rumble strips, the goal is to get your attention."

Blubaugh said state transportation officials would review accident records along the highway after a couple years to decide whether the strips should be used on other two-lane highways across Kansas. He couldn't provide exact costs for the project, saying that it was "minimal."

Officials with traffic-enforcement agencies said they haven't tracked statistics to know whether the new devices made a difference in the accident rate after a half-year.

"We welcome anything that's going to improve road travel in Douglas County and keep our citizens safe," Douglas County Sheriff's Lt. Kari Wempe said.

Lt. John Eichkorn, of the Kansas Highway Patrol, agreed.

"Anything that can be provided to assist motorists in staying in their lane will be beneficial," he said. "It just takes a very small error to create a very serious situation."

Comments

lv2ride 8 years, 3 months ago

badger, Thanks for the story, glad you are ok.

offtotheright, you are right...idiots!! Truck drivers go down the road reading their maps and making entries in their log book quite regularly!! I was engaged to a truck driver and he did this ALOT!!! Very dangerous and stupid!

I have been guilty of the cell phone thing in the past...it is, at times, a sub-conscious (<- spelling ?) thing to just pick up your phone and start talking when you could just wait until you are where you are going. I have been better at that lately and will keep working on it.

By the way, what ever happened with the "new law" being passed in lawrence about talking on cell phones while driving? anyone know?

well, thanks for letting me put my 2 cents in!

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offtotheright 8 years, 3 months ago

I've seen idiots reading a book!

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Aiko 8 years, 3 months ago

I agree that some cell phone users should not drive and talk at the same time. Some people have a very hard time "Multi-tasking". But what I see everyday going from Lawrence to KC is people eating while driving. And I do not mean a snack, I mean a plate of food! Incredible...

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badger 8 years, 3 months ago

I like the rumble strips, the raised bumps in the center lines, anything that can trip a driver's awareness that he should be paying more attention to the road.

Not driving when you've been drinking, or being involved with a cellphone conversation, those are kind of obvious things people should do. But a lot of people forget how dangerous 'sleepy' is on that list. You know, when you're drinking, that you're doing something and you know, unless you've been under a rock for the last twenty years, that drinking can affect your ability to drive. You make a decision to answer the phone or make a call, you make a decision to get in the car when you've had a few.

I've fallen asleep at the wheel once on I-70 headed for Columbia. I lost control, skipped across the median into oncoming traffic, and then back across into my lane. When I got behind the wheel, I felt alert. It was only a couple of hours to Columbia and it was several hours before I usually went to bed, though I'd had a long day. I was drinking coffee, listening to music, singing along, but somewhere between Concordia and Boonville I started to feel 'a little tired' (I think my exact thought was something like, "Man, it's been a long day. Sure will be nice to get home and watch a little TV") and I went off the road less than half a mile from the big Missouri River bridge. If I'd been on the bridge, I'd have died when I hit concrete at sixty or seventy miles an hour in a compact hatchback.

The dangerous thing about 'sleepy' is that it can happen gradually on a long trip, and the first thing that warns you you're impaired can be oncoming headlights. After my accident, I pulled off the road. Another driver stopped to see if I was OK. He'd been honking his horn and flashing his lights, because I'd crossed the yellow line between the lane and the median several times before going off the road, so he knew I was in trouble. Rumble strips in that median line would have shaken me up enough to realize it was time to pull off the road and call a friend to come get me. I was lucky to regain control of my car before I hit oncoming traffic, and lucky that it wasn't a ravine, a barrier, or a rock wall instead of a flat, grassy median.

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DonQuipunch 8 years, 3 months ago

Why not an access road instead?

And yes, ottr, that advice would be useful for both parties involved.

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offtotheright 8 years, 3 months ago

Or maybe we could get drivers to put their cell phones down and pay attention to DRIVING!

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redfred 8 years, 3 months ago

Now if we could just get KDOT to lower the speed limit in front of the East Hills Business Park.

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heyitsme 8 years, 3 months ago

I think the center rumble strips are a life-saving idea. Too bad someone didn't think about that years ago. Good job, KDOT!

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