Rumble strips not enough to stop drivers

David Holiday of Gold Bar writes: I read with interest a reader’s suggestion to have spike strips installed on freeway off-ramps to prevent wrong-way driving, and the state has provided several valid reasons why they would not work.

How about installing “rumble strips” (like the ones used on centerlines and fog lines of two-lane highways) on off-ramps to discourage wrong-way drivers?

It might jolt them into thinking “Hmm, something’s not right here; do I really want to enter the freeway here?” Once they are out there and publicized, the “right way” off-ramp motorists will get used to it.

Bronlea Mishler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: While we appreciate the creative suggestion, rumble strips just aren’t the right answer for dealing with wrong-way drivers on freeway ramps. For rumble strips to stay effective, we can’t overuse them.

Most of our rumble strips are installed on shoulders or centerlines, not across roadways. They are excellent safety investments with proven results. Studies show that rumble strips help keep drivers from leaving the roadway. They’re widely used here in Washington as well as in many other states, but there isn’t a good way yet to use rumble strips to prevent wrong-way driving.

When rumble strips are installed across the lane, the “jolt” a driver feels and hears is essentially the same to drivers going either direction. We’re not sure how the rumble strips could mean something more to drivers headed the wrong direction than those going the right way.

On the rare occasion we install rumble strips across the entire lane, they’re designed for specific situations that require a driver to pay immediate attention — for example, approaching a 15 mph curve, coming to an all-way stop on a rural 50 mph highway or exiting onto a very short off-ramp.

Turn signal hard to see

Steven M. Lay of Everett writes: There is a safety issue with the light at Everett and Rucker avenues. This is the light by the library.

When you’re heading west on Everett Avenue, you’re stopped at the light on the downslope and the sun is out, the left-turn signal becomes unreadable. Because of this, drivers tend to turn on the through green light cycle even though the left-turn signal is still red.

This could cause a serious accident. A shade should be placed over the left had turn signal so the sun doesn’t fade out the signal.

Ryan Sass, engineer for the city of Everett, responds: Signal “backplates” are commonly used to help signal visibility by providing a black background around the signals, thereby enhancing the contrast. They consist of thin strips of material that extend beyond the edges of a signal housing.

They are particularly useful for signals oriented in an east-west direction to counteract the glare effect of the rising and setting sun or areas of visually complex backgrounds. Currently, retro-reflective yellow tape is also being added to signal backplates to further increase the visibility of signals.

The backplates that currently exist at Everett and Rucker avenues for the westbound direction are faded and need to be replaced. The city has a project coming later this year that will upgrade or add backplates with retro-reflective yellow tape to all signal heads at several intersections including at Everett and Rucker. This project should be completed by the end of the year.

Email us at stsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

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