Admittedly, we’ve all been a little distracted during a long ride on the highway. Although the situation is far from ideal, it is sometimes hard to resist our urge to watch the accident in the opposite lane or sing our favourite song at the top of our lungs. Usually this causes few problems, but perhaps you’ve already been distracted enough to deviate slightly from your path directly on the rumble strip. Hearing that unique vibrating sound, it’s impossible to stay distracted. Present on our roads for several decades now, these prevention devices are inexpensive, simple to install, safe for your tires and surprisingly effective in reducing the number of road accidents. Although lane departure detection is now available on many vehicles, nothing beats the protection of these seemingly trivial indentations that could possibly save your life.
A bit of history
The history of these rumble strips starts in 1952 in New Jersey when the local authorities decided to line the 165 miles of the Garden State Parkway with corrugated concrete strips. Called “singing safety lanes” at the time, the slabs were covered with a reflective material that improved night vision, a novelty. Since they were introduced on a large scale in the 1990s, some regions have seen their road accident rates drop significantly, as much as 70% in New York State.
In Canada, this is also the case in Ontario, whose highways 11, 17 and 69 were equipped with rumble strips fairly recently, in 2010. Between 2010 and 2012, a period during which the Ontario Provincial Police expected nearly a dozen fatal accidents on these roads, none occurred. The injury accident rate was also greatly reduced. This evidence is a bit anecdotal for sure, but almost everyone around the world is stating the same thing: rumble strips really do work.
On average, nearly 70% of fatal accidents are run-off-road (ROR) in North America. Although these can be caused by many factors such as alcohol, speeding or mechanical failure, driver inattention is too often the cause. Using these simple devices, it is possible to make the driver realize the situation before it is too late.
In general, it is estimated that the implementation of rumble strips alone can prevent between 20% and 30% of fatal accidents.
More than mere indentations in the asphalt, these strips have become ubiquitous on motorways and sometimes even a source of entertainment. Around the world, some municipalities have decided to have a little fun with their rumble strips. By varying the depth and frequency of the indentations, which are made across the entire width of the road, it is possible to create vibrations with different notes and thus make music.
These musical routes can be found in China, Japan, the Netherlands and, of course, the United States. For your information, the closest one to us is in Alabama and plays the local university’s fight song. When will there be a road like that in Quebec?