LACONIA — After traffic crashes killed nine people on Route 106 over the last 15 months, the highway from Loudon to Laconia will likely get a new type of rumble strip intended to prevent head-on accidents, the state’s highway safety engineer said Wednesday.
“It is a prime candidate,” Mike Dugas, state highway safety engineer, said. “I would doubt any road would rate higher.”
When a tire runs over the new, so-called “mumble strips,” enough noise is created to warn a driver of a lane departure, but the noise level is lower than is the case with traditional rumble strips, which are a series of divots. The new type of strip features a continuous wave pattern ground into the pavement.
Dugas said sections of Route 106 with a shoulder at least 6-feet wide will also likely get mumble strips placed a foot outside the fogline. Narrower shoulders will not get the strips to ensure there is enough room for bicyclists.
He said the mumble strips represent new technology for the state Transportation Department. The only other place where they have been used in the state is a several-mile section of Route 28 north of the Epson traffic circle.
Dugas said hundreds of studies have documented that rumble strips reduce lane-departure accidents. Route 202 in the Henniker area was made safer with rumble strips. The highways was once known as “Death Alley.”
Another safety improvement is being done on Route 106 in Loudon. The road is being widened to create a continuous left-turn lane from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway south to Clough Hill Road.
After a study in the 1990s, some other sections of the roadway in and around Belmont got left-hand turn lanes.
Still, there are many parts of the route where those wishing to turn left obstruct traffic and run the risk of getting rear-ended by a driver who did not realize they had stopped. Also, distracted drivers have veered across the centerline and collided into oncoming traffic.
Rep. Charlie St. Clair, D-Laconia, said he recently discussed the need for rumble strips on Route 106 with Bill Cass, the Transportation Department’s assistant commissioner and chief engineer.
St. Clair said the strips will be installed in the construction period that begins late next spring.
“I wish they would start last week, but I understand,” St. Clair said. “They are long overdue and are a very-much-needed safety feature.
“Rumble strips will alert a driver that you are going onto the wrong side of the road and people will correct their position. They really do work.”
He acknowledged that some people who live near roadways with rumble strips object to the noise they cause.
“Would you rather hear the rumble strip for less than a second, or would you rather hear metal on metal,” St. Clair said. “To me, there is no question.”
He said the cause of many of the accidents on Route 106 is distracted driving and drowsy drivers.
“We can pass all the laws we want, but the reality is people still drive distracted,” St. Clair said. “Rumble strips will help notify them. Even a person driving under the influence can hear noise and hopefully be alerted by it.”
State Rep. Ray Howard Jr., R-Alton, said in a letter to the editor in July that rumble strips installed on Route 28 in Alton have been a noisy distraction.
“Attention residents of RT 106 - it sounds like the State (DOT) Department of Transportation is considering forcing you to pay for the poor driving habits of some people traveling our scenic highways,” he wrote. “Or, is it that state and local law enforcement are inept to enforcing the law? It really does not matter who's at fault because you, the people who live on or near RT 106 will pay the price with sleepless nights and loss of resale property values.
“So, if you like sleeping through the night with a cool summer breeze coming through your open window prepare now to take a stand against DOT ruining your Life, Liberty and your pursuit of happiness.”