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Can rumble strips slow traffic on River Road?

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THE UNOFFICIAL welcome sign to Spotsylvania’s River Road is ominous: a black mailbox with “Do Not Use This Box” painted on it.

Drivers headed from Bragg Road onto River Road will notice that mailbox on the right.

Don’t stare, though, because you’ll soon be barreling along hilly hairpin turns where there is little to no room for error.

River Road is the epitome of a rural road.

On one hand, the views are great and it is a fun drive.

But there also is always a touch of danger.

The road—with hard banking turns and buttressed by trees and creeks and precarious embankments—seems to have been designed by a roller coaster enthusiast. And too many drivers treat River Road like it is some kind of amusement ride.

Those who live along River Road know all too well its dual nature.

David Rogel has lived in a neighborhood off the road for 16 years. In that time, he says, traffic has skyrocketed as more and more drivers use it to avoid the State Route 3 mess.

He says, yes, it’s a scenic drive and can be enjoyable. Or, rather, it used to be enjoyable, when “you could take your time and enjoy the beautiful countryside,” he wrote in an email.

Now, Rogel says, there is not only more traffic but drivers fly. If you “drive the safe speeds during rush hour, you will have someone riding your tail, or even pass on the double-yellow line,” he wrote. “Often I have entered one of the curved sections to face a car coming in the opposite direction well on my side of the double-yellow line.”

Rogel wondered if it would be possible for the Virginia Department of Transportation to install rumble strips in the double-yellow lines as a way to possibly keep drivers from crossing into oncoming traffic.

VDOT’s Kelly Hannon said rumble strips “are ideal on undivided primary roads, especially roads that are the main artery in a rural community. VDOT would install centerline rumble strips on a lower-volume secondary road, such as River Road, if the traveling speed or crash history indicated they were needed. Before adding a centerline rumble strip, VDOT usually looks to see a road carrying at least 5,000 vehicles per day, and a road that has posted speeds of 45 mph or higher.”

She added that VDOT reviewed River Road in August to see if rumble strips should be added.

The answer was no.

The speed limits are lower than the 45 mph guideline, and the most recent traffic counts (from 2005) showed a high-end daily count of 2,600 vehicles.

While those rumble strips would be a nice addition to the road, it’s doubtful they’d stop those scofflaws from doing what they do.

So it looks like the best we can hope for is that those impatient drivers who pass on double-yellow lines will wake up and just slow down.

Maybe they’ll realize that by slowing down they not only can enjoy the ride, but they’ll also cut down on the possibility of killing someone else, or themselves.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436