Rumble strips boost work-zone safety in Wisconsin

April 29, 2016

Distracted driving crashes are a prime factor in traffic fatalities and injuries. The National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) reports that 3,179 people were killed and 431,100 injured on U.S. roadways in 2014 because of distracted driving. Those figures are comparable to the two years prior.

NHTSA reports another sobering statistic: at any given moment across the country, about 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone or other electronic device while driving. This alarming number has held constant since 2010. To road construction workers, it must feel like most of those 660,000 distracted drivers are driving through their work zone.

State and local agencies battle distracted driving on several fronts, through public awareness campaigns, legislation and enforcement. State departments of transportation implement policies and practices to reduce distracted driving crashes and improve safety on their roadways.

For example, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT) recently reported that traffic fatalities nearly doubled when comparing February 2016 to February 2015.

A WDOT official said, “The fatalities are happening on all the roads. It’s not just one particular road, it’s everywhere. So people need to start buckling up, driving sober and paying attention. Put the phone away … distracted driving is a huge problem now.”

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proclaimed the week of April l1 to be Work Zone Awareness Week in the state. Wisconsin lost three state workers in work zone accidents last year, two of them flaggers. To launch the 2016 Work Zone Awareness Week, WDOT announced a multi-pronged approach to improve driver behavior in work zones:

  • Display traffic messages on its electronic signs on highways;
  • Use social media to remind drivers to slow down and pay attention;
  • Broadcast messages on TV and radio about work-zone safety; and
  • Deploy law enforcement in work zones to enforce traffic laws.

A few weeks prior to this announcement, WDOT announced plans to deploy another traffic safety countermeasure to improve safety in work zones. Noting that the state had suffered 2,404 work-zone crashes, causing 945 injuries and 12 fatalities in 2015, WDOT announced plans to use temporary portable rumble strips (TPRS) in several 2016 work zones.

“Too often, drivers ignore signs telling them they're entering a construction zone,” WDOT Work Zone Operations Engineer Erin Schoon said. “Rumble strips are hard to ignore, and send a potentially life-saving message. Our hope is that every time a driver approaches any construction zone, they’ll be alert for workers and for slowing traffic.”

PSS RoadQuake Temporary Portable Rumble Strips (TPRS) alert drivers, especially distracted drivers, to changing road conditions, such as an upcoming work zone. As drivers cross an array of TPRS, they hear the familiar bumpety-bump, thumpety-thump of their tires crossing over the array, and this significant vibration is equal to the sounds and vibrations of a vehicle crossing milled-in strips. While drivers may or may not slow down, most will refocus their attention on their driving and on their surroundings.

In Marathon County, a county highway supervisor reported that his crews deployed the rumble strips at various construction sites on four-lane state roads for which they are responsible, in the fall of 2015, prior to the March announcement. Their road crews experienced safer work zones, noticing that most drivers were paying attention and slowing down after crossing the arrays.

The supervisor concluded that his workers “are happy with the results that the portable rumble strips provide in today’s high-volume traffic areas.”

In combination with the CRIB Cargo Carrier, which transports, deploys, removes and stores the rumble strips, thus reducing worker exposure to live traffic, Marathon County was able to increase road safety while protecting its workers in the process.

For more information, contact PSS at 800.662.6338, or visit

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