LACONIA — Rumble strips to warn people when they are leaving their lane could eventually be added to state Route 106, a main corridor between Concord and Laconia where eight people died in traffic accidents over about a year’s time.
Many of the fatal accidents have been head-on crashes, while others have occurred when a vehicle stops to make a left turn and is rear-ended.
Three people died on the undivided highway in a 48-hour period last month alone.
Kris Burgess, police chief of Loudon, where a person died in a Route 106 crash on June 23, said any undivided highway with high-speed traffic poses safety concerns.
“If you compared 106 to Highway 4, or 101 or 114 in Goffstown, I don’t know if it would be any more dangerous than other roads,” he said. “All are extremely dangerous roads.
“The amount of traffic we see on the roadways doesn’t help the situation, and individuals can become distracted with a mobile device or playing with the music on the radio.”
Drowsiness and driving while under the influence also contribute to the problem.
Burgess had to cut a telephone interview short on Tuesday to go to a three-car accident at Route 106 and Chichester Road that injured two people.
Mike Dugas, state highway safety engineer, said the department will go through a risk-evaluation process to identify where the strips could do the most good, with busy, undivided, two-lane highways being strongly considered. Public meetings will be held. Installation could occur on various routes next year.
When a tire hits the raised strips, it makes a noise that alerts the driver of a lane departure. People who live near highways, including Route 28 in the Alton area, say the noise is a nuisance.
Dugas said efforts are being made to come up with a rumble strip design that can be effective while generating less outside noise.
Rumble strips could be helpful on Route 106.
“My observation is that the crashes along Route 106 in recent years have commonly been caused by lane departures, which often occur for unknown reasons,” Dugas said. “One effective safety measure to reduce the numbers of these crashes is to install rumble strips.
“The DOT has just released draft guidelines, which were updated specifically to try to address noise complaints that often stem from rumble strips. In the coming months, the DOT will be generating a priority list, based on crash data and other considerations, of highways intended for new rumble strip installations, beginning in 2020.”
He said the department did a report on the Route 106 corridor in 2015 showing several intersections within Loudon — Chichester Road, Staniels Road, Clough Hill Road and Mudgett Hill Road — “had more crashes than expected as compared to other similar intersections elsewhere in the state.”
“All of these have either already been improved, have work underway, or have a project in the Ten Year Plan. There are similar findings for other towns along Route 106, including South Road in Gilmanton, Concord Street and Seavey Road in Belmont).”
He didn’t have exact accident numbers from that report.
An earlier study showed that observed travel speeds on Route 106 included median speeds as high as 65 mph, 10 mph above the posted speed limit.
Jennifer Tramp, public information officer for the state Office of Highway Safety, said there has been an uptick of accidents statewide. She said speeding, aggressive driving and impaired motorists are a concern.
She said 49 of last year's 147 traffic accident fatalities involved drunken driving, and speed was a factor in 18 other traffic deaths. There were 102 fatalities in 2017.
"Local and state police are doing more focused patrols on Route 106," she said. "We encourage people to slow down, don't drive distracted, done drive intoxicated, pay attention and get home safely."
There have also been road rage incidents on Route 106.
On April 19, 2018, a pickup truck pulling a trailer moved into the breakdown lane and did an illegal passing maneuver on the highway in Belmont, touching off a dispute that led to a later assault at the Dunkin' Donuts on South Main Street in Laconia. One man ended up with a badly cut head.
One of those charged in the case was Belmont Selectman Jon Pike. He ended up pleading no contest to a charge of disorderly conduct.
On July 4, 2016, a man was arrested for firing a shot into a car in a road rage incident on the highway in Belmont. Nobody was injured.
Dugas said Route 106 has a traffic volume of 16,500 cars per day in its busiest stretch, near the Concord-Loudon border. Some other highways in the state, such as Route 4, are used by about 20,000 cars per day.
In a letter to the editor, Loudon resident Michael Harris called Route 106 “a death-trap highway.”
“Safely driving locals and transients take ‘life in hands’ when relying on it for commuting,” he said.
Harris contends the state is not doing enough to mitigate dangerous conditions.
“To create safer conditions, intensive improvements as to traffic controls at intersections, driving lane controls, etc., are required,” he said.
Route 106 accidents:
• Loudon, June 23, Angelica Lane, 22, of Loudon, died in a three-vehicle crash on Route 106. State police said her car was rear-ended by an SUV and driven in to an oncoming pickup truck. A 1-year-old in the pickup had serious but not life-threatening injuries. The driver of the SUV was arrested on a drunken driving charge.
• Canterbury, June 21, a Port Charlotte, Florida, couple died after their vehicle crossed the center line and collided with a flatbed truck. They were identified as Jeannette and Dennis Mello, both 68.
• Loudon, April 28, Three people were injured in a head-on crash just south of the Loudon-Gilmanton line, and one later died, police said. An SUV heading north collided head-on with a sedan traveling south.
• Belmont, Sept. 17, 2018, A Belmont man was killed and two Laconia women were seriously injured in a head-on crash. Earle C. Livingstone Jr., 57, died instantly when a minivan crossed over the center line and collided head-on with his Jeep.
• Belmont, July 4, 2018, Two men died as a result of an accident in which their vehicle veered into oncoming traffic.
• Gilmanton, June 20, 2018, Andrew Smith, 63, of Attleboro, Massachusetts, was killed in a two-vehicle accident just south of the Belmont-Gilmanton town line.