Nevada tests temporary portable rumble strips

Aug. 31, 2018

On February 8, 2017, KTVN TV reported a fatal work-zone crash:

“…a 2006 black Freightliner semi was traveling southbound where it was approaching traffic being halted by a flagger in a construction zone. [Nevada Highway Patrol] says a 2000 red Ford F-150, 2015 white Toyota 4Runner, and 2007 beige Chevy Express Van were all stopped in the southbound lane behind the flagger and waiting for the pilot car. Traveling northbound was a fifth vehicle, a blue Kenworth Semi truck. 

"Authorities say the Freightliner failed to slow for the stopped traffic in the construction zone causing it to strike the rear of the F-150.  The F-150 was pushed into the right rear of the 4Runner before crossing over the centerline and hitting the left side of the Kenworth. The Freightliner continued forward and struck the right rear of the Chevy Van.”

The two occupants of the F-150 died at the scene.

Five fatal work-zone crashes occurred on U.S. 6 in Nevada in 2017, all in similar settings:

  • a two-lane highway, one lane closed by an active work zone;
  • a pilot car or flagging operation to manage traffic queues; and
  • traffic control procedures and devices comply with MUTCD and Nevada DOT specifications.

A commercial vehicle, traveling at posted speed limits of 65 or 70 mph for hours upon hours through Nevada, suddenly comes upon the active work zone and a traffic queue. The semi driver, distracted or drowsy, cannot stop in time and crashes into the end of the queue.

“If it’s predictable, it’s preventable,” Pat Gallagher, a 26-year veteran of the Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP), said about end-of-queue crashes. He is very familiar with traffic incidents and fatalities such as the one described above.

Gallagher became involved in traffic incident management about 10 years ago, while serving as major of the Southern Command of NHP. Upon retirement two years ago, he joined Parsons Transportation, a nationwide leader in traffic incident management, as project manager for Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Coalition of Nevada.

The purpose of the TIM Coalition, according to their website, involves the following: “By working towards an enhanced level of interagency coordination, collaboration and communication through the activities surrounding an active coalition of traffic incident management stakeholders there is a proven difference in roadway clearance times, enhancing safety and decreasing the number of crashes, even fatalities.”

As such, the TIM Coalition joins with other agencies, like Nevada DOT, Nevada Department of Public Safety, city and county law enforcement, and others to enhance safety.

To "protect the queue" in work zones, Gallagher wrote a grant and received funds from the Department of Public Safety/Office of Traffic Safety to purchase road safety countermeasures. His research indicated that one device, RoadQuake 2F Temporary Portable Rumble Strip (TPRS), could prove especially effective.

RoadQuake 2F TPRS is designed to alert distracted or drowsy drivers through sound and vibration as drivers traverse the rumble strips. After driving over the strips, distracted drivers usually return their focus to their driving. 

Gallagher has tested RoadQuake in active Nevada work zones, and finds they effectively alert drivers to the changing road condition. In addition, he finds “nothing else can stand up to commercial vehicles” like RoadQuake.

Gallagher will conduct speed reduction studies, with and without RoadQuake, in an active work zone sometime this fall. Though PSS does not market RoadQuake as a speed reduction device, contractors have observed speed reductions when vehicles approach or drive over the strips.

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