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Rumble strips installed on "death curve"

August 29, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY

In the past five years, seven people have died on a section of Old National Pike commonly known as "death curve."

The half-mile stretch of road, which winds around a bend in Antietam Creek between Funkstown and Boonsboro, has been the site of many traffic accidents that have been caused by vehicles crossing the double-yellow line.

"It's very dangerous. I used to run ambulances in Boonsboro, and I can tell you we have responded to accidents in that area for many, many years," Washington County Sheriff Douglas C. Mullendore said.

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Last week, the Maryland State Highway Administration took steps to reduce accidents on the curve by installing a series of grooves, also known as a "rumble strip," in the road's center line.

The grooves, which make a loud noise when vehicles drive over them, are identical to grooves installed on the shoulders of Interstates 70 and 81, said George Small, assistant district engineer for the state highway department.

Small said that while rumble strips are common on interstates, the strip on Old National Pike is the first to be installed on the center line of a road in Washington County.

"It's a rather effective tool, and easier than putting in barriers," Small said.

The state highway department widened the road's white lines a few years ago and also plans to install larger road signs and reflectors on the curve. Small said he hopes the changes will force people to pay more attention as they drive through the turn.

"Will they still make mistakes? You bet. But, hopefully, this will help," Small said.

Of the seven people who have died in accidents on the curve, five were killed in collisions with oncoming traffic.

In June 2007, a motorcyclist was killed when he crossed the center line and collided with a truck. Two people were killed in a head-on collision in November 2006, and two people died in what police said was a race when their truck hit an oncoming car.

"A lot of people just don't pay attention as they go around those turns. It's easy to drift over the line," Mullendore said.

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