Ohio University study looks at effectiveness of rumble strips

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Last spring, Ohio University launched a study of transverse rumble strips (TRS). The purpose of the study is to test the effectiveness of TRS arrays in work zones. Specifically, can TRS arrays make work zones safer?

The study will answer key questions:

Will TRS arrays alert drivers to changing road conditions? 

Will drivers reduce their speeds upon approaching a TRS array?

Deborah McAvoy, Ph.D, P. E., PTOE, assistant professor, Civil Engineering, Ohio University, serves as principal investigator for the study. Professor McAvoy specializes in traffic engineering and work-zone safety and mobility. Among her many endeavors, she serves on the board of the Cleveland State University Transportation Center.

Professor McAvoy and her engineering students conducted TRS field tests in Athens, Ohio, from April through October, 2010. They conducted tests in a work zone at U.S. 33/State Rte. 682 and Richland Ave., just south of the OU campus. 

As the spacing of a TRS array will have the most impact on the success of the study, McAvoy and crew first tested RoadQuake Rumble Strips to determine the spacing that assures maximum tire displacement. 

To use basic marketing-and-sales language, tire displacement generates the "rumble,” the sound and vibration, heard and felt inside the vehicle that alerts drivers to changing road conditions. As displacement increases, so does the rumble.

In their forthcoming report, OU researchers will ultimately answer a crucial question:  What is the maximum spacing between each rumble strip that assures the greatest impact to safely alert drivers?

In the field tests, OU researchers also measured drivers' reactions to changing road conditions, with and without rumble strips deployed.

Results are encouraging. In addition to evidence that the rumble strips alerted drivers, OU researchers also measured significant reductions in drivers' speeds.

OU Test Location 1:

Speeds without rumble strips: 46 mph

Speeds with rumble strips: 38.3 mph

A reduction of 7.7 mph using the rumble strips.

OU Test Location 2:

Speeds without rumble strips: 32.7 mph

Speeds with rumble strips: 18.9 mph

A reduction of 13.8 mph using rumble strips.

OU researchers moved indoors during the winter months to create simulator tests for TRS arrays. The simulator tests will mimic the weather conditions and the work-zone configurations of the field tests. 

In the simulator tests, as in the field tests, researchers will capture maximum tire displacement and speed-reduction data. They also will measure drivers' behavior and movement, including eye tracking, and overall driver performance.

Simulator tests were scheduled to begin the week of April 4, and will continue through mid-June. Professor McAvoy and crew will then analyze the data and write their final report, which will feature detailed descriptions of test activities, and, of course, results and recommendations.

In August, Professor McAvoy will submit the final report to the Transportation Research Board (TRB) as a candidate for presentation at its annual meeting held each January in Washington, D.C. Visit www.trb.org for more information.

Please visit http://www.plasticsafety.com/road-quake-rumble-strips-downloads to view pictures and videos of the OU study.

Plastic Safety Systems, with headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, manufactures and markets MUTCD-Compliant, crashworthy, plastic traffic control devices for permanent and temporary applications. Contact us at 800-662-6338 or visit www.plasticsafety.com

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