One of the head-on collisions claimed the life of 16-year-old Adam Winters, who would have been a junior at Paynesville Area High School this fall. In that accident, Winters’ vehicle strayed across the centerline for an unknown reason. Whether he nodded off, was momentarily distracted, or was adjusting the radio, no one can ever know.
The noise and vibrations from rumble strips, though, could have alerted him as he crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic. “I think it’s a great idea,” said Winters’ mother, Karen Smith of Paynesville, of the rumble strips. “If it can prevent another accident, if it can prevent another mother, father, sister, or brother from going through this, I’m all for it.”
“I wish they would have done it a long time ago,” she added. “Wishing…it’s too late for that.”
The rumble strips will be a joint project between the St. Cloud and Willmar districts of MnDOT. They are a relatively new and experimental safety measure, according to MnDOT. The strips cut into the centerline are similar to rumble strips used on the shoulders of four-lane highways, which warn drivers if they stray from the road surface.
MnDOT hopes the strips will reduce head-on crashes on high volume roads like Highway 23.
According to MnDOT crash counts, 858 accidents have occurred on the 50-mile stretch of Highway 23 between St. Cloud and Willmar in the last five years. That includes 51 head-on collisions and sideswipes.
Ten fatalities have resulted from accidents on Highway 23 in the past five years. Three happened in head-on collisions.
The road averages 1.2 accidents per million vehicles, which is slightly higher than the local district average but meets the statewide average for a rural two-lane highway, according to MnDOT.
MnDOT said the strips should just alert drivers when they cross the centerline and not interfere with passing opportunities.
Originally, MnDOT expected work on the project would start in September, but, following another fatal accident last week on Highway 23 near Cold Spring, the project was given emergency status. “This emergency status will expedite the paperwork in getting a contractor on board to do the work as soon as possible,” said Bob Busch, the district engineer for MnDOT out of its Baxter/ St. Cloud offices.
The emergency status could help the project start several weeks sooner, MnDOT estimated.
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