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Crash reduction following installation of centerline rumble strips on rural two-lane roads

Persaud, Bhagwant N.; Retting, Richard A.; Lyon, Craig
Accident Analysis and Prevention
November 2004

Rural two-lane roads generally lack physical measures such as wide medians or barriers to separate opposing traffic flows. As a result, a major crash problem on these roads involves vehicles crossing the centerline and either sideswiping or striking the front ends of opposing vehicles. These types of opposing-direction crashes account for about 20% all fatal crashes on rural two-lane roads and result in about 4,500 fatalities annually in the US. The present study evaluated a potential engineering countermeasure for such crashes-installation of rumble strips along the centerlines of undivided rural two-lane roads to alert distracted, fatigued, or speeding motorists whose vehicles are about to cross the centerlines and encroach into opposing traffic lanes. Data were analyzed for approximately 210 miles of treated roads in seven states before and after installation of centerline rumble strips. An empirical Bayes before-after procedure was employed to properly account for regression to the mean while normalizing for differences in traffic volume and other factors between the before and after periods. Overall results indicated significant reductions for all injury crashes combined (14%, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) = 5-23%) as well as for frontal and opposing-direction sideswipe injury crashes (25%, 95% CI = 6-44%)--the primary target of centerline rumble strips. In light of their effectiveness and relatively low installation costs, consideration should be given to installing centerline rumble strips more widely on rural two-lane roads to reduce the risk of frontal and opposing-direction sideswipe crashes.