State adding centerline rumble strips in southern Maine to reduce traffic fatalities

Posted Sept. 20, 2013, at 1:59 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The state is about to double the amount of centerline rumble strips — the noisy, bumpy ridges that snap sleepy drivers awake — with installations along Route 4 from Sanford through Berwick and Route 111 from Arundel to Alfred.

Duane Brunell, safety manager for the Maine Department of Transportation, said rumble strips along the center of a roadway decreases the frequency of head-on collisions — the kind of crash that most frequently causes fatalities and serious injury — by up to 60 percent.

Burnell said that over the past 10 years, Maine has seen about 8,000 head-on crashes, resulting in about 400 fatalities.

Here’s a more specific example: The stretch of Route 111 slated for rumble strip installation is a busy commuter road between Biddeford and Sanford. It has seen 730 accidents during the past 10 years, resulting in 11 fatalities and 48 serious but nonfatal injuries. Of those, only 41 were head-on collisions, but those crashes yielded eight of the deaths and 17 of the serious injuries.

“These crashes aren’t the most frequent, but they are the most dangerous,” Burnell said in an interview Thursday.

The $133,000 project includes installation on only about 20 miles of roadway, but Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said Mainers can expect to see more rumble strips on the state’s roads in the future.

“This is going to be a statewide effort as we see the success of the installation of these rumble strips, as we identify high-crash locations and corridor,” Talbot said.

Rumble strips are a relatively low-cost measure compared to other safety options, Talbot said, and in many ways they are the most useful in combating the kinds of driver behavior — using a cellphone while behind the wheel, or driving while fatigued, for example — that cause the most accidents.

“We can put up signs, lights, anything, but once you take that corridor a few times, the sign is just a sign. The light is just another light,” he said. “This is going to have that effect, that safety effect, and under the heading of safety, we find this is one of the best ways to counter driver inattention.”

Rumble strips are omnipresent along the sides of Maine’s interstate highways, but application on the centerline on other roads is far less common. There are only about 18 miles of centerline rumble strips throughout the state. Most of that was installed in 2006, along U.S. Route 1 in Woolwich and on other roads in Dedham, Bangor and Trenton.

The number of crashes along those stretches of roads has decreased by 50 percent since installation, and the number of fatalities has dropped to zero.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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