County to address 80 dangerous roads spots
WILLMAR -- Numerous lakes and sloughs means Kandiyohi County has more than its share of dangerous highway curves, which can lead to traffic accidents.
Run-off-the-road type accidents are a "pretty good chunk of our total accidents," said Gary Danielson, Kandiyohi County Public Works Director, adding that about half of the severe accidents reported in the county are because vehicles run off the road, and of those, about 42 percent are related to curves.
That's why the county is taking advantage of federal funds from the Highway Safety Improvement Program to install 874 chevrons on 80 curves in the county.
Chevrons are yellow signs with arrows that indicate a curve in the road.
Bids for the project will be awarded this spring through a cooperative effort with Meeker County, but Danielson estimates the project will cost about $75,000. Federal funds will cover 90 percent of the cost.
The money is part of a federal project approved by Congress in 2005 to correct or improve a hazardous road location, or address a highway safety problem.
A key part of the program is improving safety on rural roads, which account for almost two-thirds of the more than 43,000 roadway fatalities in the U.S, according to the Federal Highway Administration website.
In 2009 the county used the federal safety money to install 234 chevrons and apply an extra-wide paint stripe on the edge of some county roads, which also helps reduce accidents on straight roadways.
But curves are definitely an issue for Kandiyohi County, especially in the northern half.
"We maybe have more curves than most counties," Danielson said.
Statistics show that vehicles are three times more likely to run off a road in a curve than in a straight stretch of road, he said. "Statistically, that's where a greater proportion of accidents happen."
The installation of chevrons is a proactive "safety strategy" the county can take to reduce those chances, Danielson said.
A string of a half-dozen chevrons on the edge of a curve is noticeable, especially at night when drivers are tired or during times of low visibility because of snowstorms or fog.
"The drivers like them and appreciate them," Danielson said. "It makes it easier to drive."
And statistically, they work.
"It clearly is a beneficial thing for the public," said Danielson, again citing statistics that show that "the sharper the curve is the greater the benefit is" when chevrons are present.
The federal highway program also dedicates funding to improve safety at intersections by installing additional lighting and signs. More centerline rumble strips on high-traffic two-lane state highways are also being installed, Danielson said.