Rural Road Safety Awareness Week

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has dedicated the week of July 18 – July 22 to raise awareness for Rural Road Safety. The theme of the week is Taking Action, Saving Lives. I recently attended the retirement party for Alan Wolfe, TDOT Region 2 (Chattanooga) Traffic Engineer, who became a good friend over the years. One of his coworkers noted we could not count the crashes that never happened, and Alan had contributed to saving many lives in his 40 years at TDOT. I hope the same will be said of me at my retirement in 20 years.

Through our various contracts with TDOT, Sain Associates is helping take action to save lives across Tennessee roads, especially our rural roads. I recently spent time on two very curvy rural state routes in Van Buren County, and we are working with TDOT to make them safer. 

Rural Road Safety signage

Road types vary, so they require approaches tailored to their unique conditions. Rural roads can be very different than urban streets. Rural roads can be winding and have narrow lanes and varying posted speeds. Road users may encounter animals, farm equipment, and varying road surfaces. 

Some of the countermeasures we use when conducting Road Safety Audits (RSA) on rural roads include:

  • Rumble stripes on the edgeline of the travel lane: Rumble stripes can be as narrow as four inches, allowing the countermeasure to be effective on a rural route with very little shoulder. Rumble stripes alert drivers through vibration and sound that their vehicle has left the travel lane.
  • Enhanced delineation of horizontal curves: Enhanced delineation of a curve can be as simple as wider edgeline striping to better define the edge of the travel lane. Chevron signs are often used to delineate a horizontal curve. 
  • High Friction Surface Treatment (HFST): HFST is another tool used on rural road curves to increase the surface friction of roadways to help keep vehicles in their lanes. 
  • Appropriate speed limits: Speed control is one of the most important methods for reducing fatalities and serious injuries. TDOT can change the posted speed of a state route based on a speed study, crash analysis, and engineering judgment. 

We apply these countermeasures and many others across rural roads in Tennessee to improve the safety of our roadways for all road users. We also stay abreast of current research and training to be sure we are using the most current countermeasures in the safety toolbox.