Off the Northway: Rumbly roads should keep cars in line
Taylor Mosher of Halfmoon died Tuesday night when her Honda Civic went into the wrong lane on Route 146 near her home. The resulting head-on collision with an SUV killed the popular 19-year-old, and the other driver was severely hurt.
Sadly, that’s not a unique story. Police investigate crashes like that — and reporters write stories about crashes like that — too often. And just being in your own lane isn’t always good enough to keep you safe.
In the news business, you quickly learn that the question after a head-on crash isn’t so much whether anyone was hurt but how badly.
Annually, New York averages 120 deaths and 3,500 injuries from head-on or opposite-direction sideswipe collisions, according to state figures. Someone ends up in the wrong lane at the wrong time, and the results are catastrophic.
Drivers drift across lanes for all sorts of reasons, from drowsiness to drunkenness to backseat distractions or even cellphones. I think most of us will admit we’ve drifted out of our lane a few times. Maybe you were California dreamin’. It happens.
The state unveiled a new plan last week to keep drivers not just between the ditches but on the straight and narrow.
Department of Transportation officials think that installing center line rumble strips will cut down on state highway collisions.
Simply calling them rumble strips makes too much sense, so someone came up with the term Centerline Audible Roadway Delineators, which gives you a nice acronym, CARDs.
Here’s what will happen the next time some state roads are repaved: Grooves 3/8 of an inch deep will be cut every 24 inches in the centerline pavement. That’s a different style than the shoulder grooves on interstates, but the idea is the same. It’s still going to send a jolting rumble and vibration up through your tires.
DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said CARDs will be cut into 2,000 miles of new pavement this year and next, as part of the $1.2 billion New York Works program. It costs about 30 cents per foot, but transportation officials consider that a bargain compared to the human and financial cost of crashes.
“Our goal is to find the best, most cost-effective ways to keep motorists as safe as possible, which is why we have added center line rumble strips to our toolbox of safety measures,” McDonald said in a news release.
They’re already used in 29 states, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas and California.
Where they’re installed, researchers say, there’s been a drop in head-ons and sideswipes that caused death or injury, down 64 percent in urban and 44 percent in rural areas. (An interesting but unexplained difference — but everyone knows people drive faster out in the country.)
“New York drivers will unquestionably be safer because of them,” said Jonathan McDade, a Federal Highway Administration administrator.
Plus it would be nice to write fewer of those stories.
Expect to see CARDs being cut into state highways with speed limits of 45 mph or more that are used by at least 2,000 vehicles per day.