In the past 10 years, 86 accidents have occurred on a stretch of rural highway in southern Johnson County.
Most of the accidents were head-on collisions caused when a motorist crossed over the center line or when a driver overcorrected.
But now, if you’re driving on State Road 44 west of Franklin and inadvertently swerve over the double yellow line in the center of the road, you’ll get a stark alert.
Last week, construction crews installed more than three miles of rumble stripes — or cuts in the road that make a loud gravelly noise when driven over — on the center of the road as part of a safety improvement program. The Federal Highway Administration is recommending that rural roads with speeds of 50 mph or higher have these rumble stripes installed.
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Deputies with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office respond to an accident nearly every other day on State Road 44, typically from people who either aren’t familiar with the twists and turns of the road or underestimate how fast they are driving, Chief Deputy Randy Werden said.
The federal agency is offering money to state transportation departments to cover part of the safety improvement costs. A rumble stripe, often called a rumble strip, in the center of the pavement will reduce head-on crashes that injure or kill people on two-lane rural roads by 44 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Eight other roads in the state already have had the stripes installed, including State Road 46 from State Road 135 in Nashville to Country Club Road in Columbus, but this is the first in Johnson County.
The $148,414 project will include five miles of rumble striping installed, new signs and fresh paint to mark the lanes, said Harry Maginity, INDOT spokesman. He said the state does not have plans to install other rumble stripes in Johnson County for the next three years but is considering adding rumble stripes to State Road 135 in the future.
State Road 44 is under construction to remove a sharp curve at Centerline Road, which should be open by this fall. About a quarter-mile of State Road 44 is being rebuilt to remove a sharp curve where drivers not only must turn but also go up or down a steep hill.
Since 2005, 77 accidents have occurred at State Road 44 and Centerline Road, resulting in 20 injuries and nearly 60 cases of vehicles or property being damaged, according to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
Motorists have had nearly 100 accidents since 2005 on State Road 44 from State Road 135 to Centerline Road, but no one has died, according to the sheriff’s office. By comparison, other state-maintained roads, such as State Road 37, have been the site of about 500 accidents in the past decade.
Drivers regularly need to swerve and slow down on State Road 44 to avoid crashing into one another, area resident Lance Fischer said.
Fischer thinks State Road 44’s rumble stripes are an improvement but said rumble stripes should be installed on other dangerous roads in the county, including State Road 135.
Fischer and his father, Ed Fischer, have discussed the dangers of State Road 135 for years, since they have witnessed dozens of accidents near their home. In the past decade, deputies have been called to more than 375 accidents along State Road 135 in Union and Hensley townships alone.
“We definitely saw that the need was there (on State Road 44), but we just think that it needed to be looked at as an option for other roads as well,” Fischer said. “We feel it’s a relatively inexpensive solution considering the amount of people that have been killed on State Road 135, especially in the areas where there is no passing, and where there has been notorious accidents that have hurt or killed people.”
Here’s a look at other roads that have had rumble stripes installed within the past two years:
- State Road 46 from State Road 9 to State Road 3 in Bartholomew and Decatur counties
- State Road 46 from State Road 135 in Nashville to Country Club Road near Columbus
- U.S. 50 from Interstate 65 in Seymour to State Road 3 in North Vernon
- U.S. 50 from State Road 446 to State Road 135 in Lawrence and Jackson counties
- State Road 7 from State Road 62 in Madison to State Road 3 in North Vernon
- State Road 111 from State Road 211 in Harrison County to Main Street/New Albany in Floyd County
- State Road 62 from State Road 3 in Charlestown to State Road 56 near Hanover
- State Road 60 from State Road 56 in Corydon to State Road 311 near Sellersburg
Here’s a look at the details of the safety improvement project:
What is included:
- Five miles of rumble striping, from State Road 135 to State Road 144
- New signage along the road
- Freshly painted pavement markings, to better show the lanes on the road
State Road 44 has been the scene of nearly 100 accidents recorded in the past 10 years, although county sheriff’s deputies report to that road nearly every other day from someone running off the road or hitting another vehicle.
Here’s a look at the type of accidents on State Road 44 since 2005:
Personal-injury reports: 23
Property-damage reports: 63
Source: Johnson County Sheriff’s Office