HANCOCK COUNTY — It’s easy to miss the signs amid other distractions.

The kids in the backseat arguing. The buzz of a cellphone in the cup holder. A glance away from the road to flip the radio dial.

That yellow post, emblazoned with “STOP AHEAD” doesn’t do enough these days to catch a driver’s eye, officials said. But a rumble beneath, the vibration and noise as a car’s tires take on rough pavement, is unmistakable, its command is instantly clear: look up and slow down.

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More than two dozen local intersections where drivers often cause crashes after disobeying stop signs have now been equipped with a safety measure that county highway officials hope will reduce accidents.

Rumble strips have been installed inside traffic lanes near 27 Hancock County intersections in hopes of alerting drivers to an upcoming stop sign. The strips create a roughness on the surface of the roadway that cause noise and vibrations when driven over, and county highway officials hope the devices will effectively catch drivers’ attention and reduce the number crashes there.

Each of the intersections where the rumble strips were installed features a two-way stop. Records show an average of 100 accidents happen at two-way intersections every year in Hancock County, usually when drivers miss the stop sign and pulling out into oncoming traffic, County Engineer Gary Pool said.

Extra signs warning of an upcoming two-way stop don’t always do enough to get a distracted drivers’ attention, Pool said. But the noises and vibrations of the rumbles strips paired with the extra signs should cut the number of crashes, he said.

The sets of in-lane rumble strips now in place around the county will serve as trial intersections, Pool said: if crashes decrease in those areas thanks to the strips, he’ll move forward with plans to put them near more two-way stops in the county.

It costs $500 to put in a rumble strip, making it a cheap safety feature, Pool said.

The use of in-lane rumble strips is a fairly new concept, and while few nationwide studies exist to tout their effectiveness, experts believe they can reduce accidents at intersects by between 30 and 60 percent, Pool said.

Engineers in Iowa, for example, saw a 20 percent decrease in crashes at rural intersections where rumble strips were installed, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The effectiveness of using rumble strips on others areas of a roadway, like along the shoulder or center-line, have proven to be greatly effective, national studies show.

Head-on collisions decrease by 90 percent in areas where centerline rumble strips are used to alert drivers who nearly cross into oncoming traffic, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Rumble strips on the shoulder reduced crashed where drivers run off the road by 88 percent, the administration says.

Pool hopes to see that same success locally.

He thinks the same technology, the same rumbling noise that wakes dozing drivers as they drift into other lanes, can just as effective in reminding distracted drivers to keep an eye on the road, cutting down on crashes and keeping people safe.

A set of rumble strips was installed on County Road 300N near the intersection with Fortville Pike, where, between 2014 and 2016, 16 people were injured in 14 accidents. If the strips help reduce accidents there in half, it would mean eight fewer people were hurt, Pool cited as one example.

And that’s an important change, said Brad Armstrong, president of the Hancock County Board of Commissioners.

County leaders are always looking to make local roads safer in the most cost-effective way, Armstrong said.

The county spent $23,000 to put rumble strips at the trial intersections — a cheap alternatives to putting in a roundabout, which the Federal Highway Administration says cuts intersection accidents by nearly 80 percent but costs up to $1 million to construct.

If the data collected locally shows the rumble strips are helping reduce crashes, county officials will consider investing in more, Armstrong said.

Feel a difference? New rumble strips added

Rumble strips have been installed inside traffic lanes of 27 Hancock County intersections where drivers often often cause crashes after disobeying stop signs.

Officials hope the rumble strips will alert drivers to an upcoming stop sign and therefore, reduce accidents.

This safety equipment has been installed in these areas:

  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 400S near the intersection with County Road 200W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 300S near the intersection with County Road 200W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 200S near the intersection with County Road 200W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 100S near the intersection with County Road 200W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 500N near the intersection with County Road 200W
  • In the north- and southbound lanes County Road 200W near the intersection with of County Road 600N
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 700N near the intersection with County Road 200W
  • In the eastbound lane of County Road 900N near the intersection with County Road 200W
  • At the southbound lane of County Road 500W near the intersection with of County Road 600S
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 300S near the intersection with County Road 500W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 200S near the intersection with County Road 500W
  • In the westbound lane of County Road 100S near the intersection with County Road 500W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 300S near the intersection with County Road 600W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 200S near the intersection with County Road 600W
  • In the westbound lane of County Road 200N near the intersection with County Road 600W
  • In the southbound lane of County Road 700W near the intersection with Stinemyer Road
  • In the westbound lanes of County Road 300S near the intersection with County Road 800W
  • In the westbound lane of Stinemyer Road near the intersection with County Road 800W
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 500S near the intersection with County Road 100E
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 400S near the intersection with County Road 100E
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 300S near the intersection with County Road 100E
  • In the eastbound lanes of County Road 200S near the intersection with County Road 100E
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 300N near the intersection with Fortville Pike
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 500N near the intersection with Fortville Pike
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 600N near the intersection with Fortville Pike
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 700N near the intersection with Fortville Pike
  • In the east- and westbound lanes of County Road 900N near the intersection with Fortville Pike
Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.