September 20, 2013

Safety success keeps Maine ready to rumble

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Maine Department of Transportation first installed centerline rumble strips along Route 4 in Turner and Route 1 in Woolwich in 2006.

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In the six years before the rumble strips were installed, there were 21 head-on collisions and eight fatalities. In the six years after, there were only 10 head-on crashes and none were fatal.

Duane Brunell, a safety manager with the Maine DOT, said those numbers are the biggest reason the state is committed to installing more centerline rumble strips across the state.

"It's a relatively low-cost mitigation effort that has a potentially high return if it saves lives," Brunell said Thursday.

In addition to Turner and Woolwich, the DOT already has installed rumble strips in three other locations: Route 1A in Dedham, Route 9 in parts of northern Hancock County and a section of Route 3 in Trenton, the only road that connects to Mount Desert Island.

Brunell said the state plans to retrofit two additional roads this fall: Route 4 in Berwick and South Berwick and Route 111 between Biddeford and Alfred.

The rumble strips are likely to become more widespread in the coming years. The cost is about $135,000 for every 20 miles of road, Brunell said.

The state has been using edge line or shoulder rumble strips for a decade, most notably on interstates, where people drive fastest.

But with more and more distractions for drivers, especially cell phones, Brunell said anything the state can do to prevent motorists from crossing the centerline is smart.

Maine sees an average of 800 head-on collisions every year, resulting in approximately 40 deaths.

"The worst types of crashes are often head-on collisions at high speed. The forces at play and the resulting injuries are horrific," he said.

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, whose jurisdiction includes the section in Woolwich where a centerline rumble strip was installed seven years ago, said the numbers speak for themselves.

"On a heavily traveled road that is considered wide and open, speed will always be a factor," he said. "Keeping vehicles in their proper lane is crucial and that's what rumble strips do."

Brunell said the state has targeted roads that have a speed limit of at least 45 mph, have heavy traffic volume and a history of crashes.

The process involves grinding into the pavement to a depth of less than one-half inch at steady intervals.

When tires travel over the strip, drivers hear a loud noise and the vehicle vibrates.

Ted Talbot, the DOT's spokesman, said some communities have complained about the noise associated with center line rumble strips but Merry said it hasn't been a problem in Woolwich, where traffic is heavy enough that additional noise is not noticed.

 

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

 

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Today's poll: Rumble strips

Should Maine DOT install more centerline rumble strips across the state?

Yes

No

View Results