KDOT’s New Plan to Make Two-Lane Roads Safer in 2008

Mon December 17, 2007 - Midwest Edition

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) Each year, scores of people are killed and injured in accidents on two-lane highways in rural Kansas, often in head-on collisions in which a vehicle crosses into the oncoming lane.

Next year, state highway officials will start installing “rumble strips” down the center of state roads to alert drifting drivers before they stray into the wrong lane.

The rumble strips are 7-by-12-in. (17 by 30.5 cm), football-shaped indentations set amid the painted stripes that divide the roadway.

The Kansas Department of Transportation said Oct. 16 that it will include rumble strips in its contract for resurfacing for the 2008 construction season for several hundred miles of roadways. Plans call for all two-lane state highways to have rumble strips within 10 years.

The agency estimates the strips will cost about $1,800 a mile. It costs between $50,000 and $75,000 per mile to resurface a two-lane asphalt highway.

Two-lane highways in rural areas, where posted speeds can be up to 65 mph, account for the majority of fatalities.

“There are a good number of head-on accidents. The force of two vehicles hitting usually result in serious injury or death,” said Highway Patrol Lt. Art Wilburn. “Seat belts help save lives, but head-on collisions are very brutal.”

Last year, 67.9 percent of fatal accidents in Kansas were in rural areas, mainly on two-lane roadways, while 64.4 percent of all accidents were in urban areas. That translates to 23,321 accidents in rural areas with 290 fatal, compared with 42,139 accidents in urban areas, including 137 in which someone died.

KDOT spokesman Steve Swartz said reasons for more fatalities in rural areas include such things as higher speeds, fewer people wearing seat belts and greater distance to emergency medical care in many cases.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety said 20 percent of the fatal crashes throughout the nation on two-lane highways are head-on collisions or sideswipes.

With the indentations, the strips would be like a vehicle driving through an endless line of potholes.

“They make a loud noise and most definitely will make a driver more alert,” Wilburn said.

KDOT conducted two pilot projects — U.S. 50 between Newton and Hutchinson and U.S. 40 in Douglas County — and while the agency still is collecting data, officials decided to move forward with the idea.

“We saw enough evidence of the benefit of centerline rumble strips from looking at other states’ experiences and at research at Kansas State University,” David Church, chief of the KDOT Bureau of Traffic Engineering, said in a statement.

KDOT oversees 7,845 mi, (12,625 km) of two-lane state highways out of nearly 10,000 mi. (16,000 km) of state roadways. Altogether, Kansas has 135,000 mi. (217,000 km) of roadways, including city streets and county roads.

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