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MnDOT installs high-tech signs at rural intersections

ST. PAUL-- More rural areas of the state this summer are getting intelligent transportation systems at high-risk intersections that will help reduce crashes and improve safety, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

ST. PAUL-- More rural areas of the state this summer are getting intelligent transportation systems at high-risk intersections that will help reduce crashes and improve safety, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

MnDOT is installing the Rural Intersection Conflict Warning Systems at 54 high-risk locations around the state. The sites are ranked for factors such as limited visibility before the intersection, whether there is a railroad or commercial development close by, traffic volume, previous crash history and distance on the road from the last stop sign.

In Crow Wing County MnDOT plans for signs at the intersection of Highway 210 and County Road 59, and the intersection of Highway 6 and County Road 30.

The systems are used at stop-controlled intersections to alert drivers when vehicles are approaching the intersection. The system uses a combination of traditional signing, flashing lights that turn on when traffic is approaching an intersection and sensors that trigger the lights to flash.

"The system gives real-time warning to motorists approaching a stop sign that there is traffic approaching and also warns drivers on the road without the stop sign that a vehicle is stopped or entering the intersection," Ken Hansen, RICWS project manager, said in a release.

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Motorists on the major road will see a standard "Entering Traffic" sign, a "When Flashing" sign and a flashing light as they approach and pass through the intersection. The flashing light will only be lit when vehicles are present on the minor road. Motorists on the minor road will see an illuminated LED "Traffic Approaching" sign and "When Flashing" sign with dual flashing lights. The dual flashing lights will only be on when there is traffic approaching. The LED "Traffic Approaching" is constantly illuminated.

He said people tend to think there are fewer crashes in rural areas since they aren't as populated as urban areas, but about 66 percent of fatal crashes in the state happen on rural roads. This is due to varying terrain, inconsistent sightlines such as trees and vegetation near the travel lanes, roadway skews and motorists driving at higher speeds.

"Injuries in rural areas are usually serious injuries and fatalities," Hansen said. "Emergency response often takes longer because of the distance between cities. We think these systems will make a difference in reducing crashes and saving lives."

In 2014, 324 fatal crashes occurred in the state and 214 of those were in population areas of less than 1,000. The number of personal-injury crashes in population areas of less than 1,000 was higher than the injuries in areas with populations of 250,000 and greater.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 62 percent of crashes in rural stop-controlled intersections were caused by drivers stopping and looking, but not seeing the other vehicle and proceeding into the intersection. A MnDOT study found that 26 percent of right-angle crashes at stop-controlled intersections were caused by drivers failing to stop.

"Drivers should always obey the stop signs as they approach an intersection, but the added technology is designed to be an additional safety message," Hansen said.

Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLAL10hTEXI for a video on how the new system works, and mndot.gov/trafficeng/signals/conflictwarning.html for a list of where the signs are being installed.

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