Signs Along Highways Warn Minn. Motorists of 'Shock Wave Effect'

Updated: 03/19/2014 11:19 AM
Created: 03/18/2014 6:00 PM
By: Beth McDonough

The Minnesota Traffic Observatory says the "shock wave effect" causes hundreds of crashes a year.

The "shock wave effect" is when a car in front of you brakes hard - and you're forced to hit your brakes.

The Minnesota Traffic Observatory is testing a new shock wave warning system, using electronic message boards with Intelligent Lane Control Signs (ILCS).

The signs are posted above key highways, like I-94 and I-35W southbound near the Crosstown, alerting drivers to problems ahead and offering detours.

"It might raise the attention of drivers at the right time at the right location so they avoid the crash," according to Professor John Hourdos, with Minnesota Traffic Observatory.

The University of Minnesota study is in conjunction with MnDOT. Using traffic cameras and sensors perched on rooftops and pointed at certain roadways, researchers studied shock waves.

Hourdos says in 2003 there were 150 wrecks and nearly 400 close calls. Most of the crashes happened, he believes, because drivers didn't have enough time to react to the "shock wave effect" in front of them.

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