User Login    
 + Register
PDQ Cleaning
News : Transportation Officials Consider 'Sound Cannons' In Work Zones
Posted by Randy on 2014/6/2 7:35:16 (126 reads) News by the same author

Kansas City (AP) - Drivers may have thought they were hearing things when a robotlike voice invaded their cars as they traveled a Northland interstate last fall.
Click to see original Image in a new window

They weren’t hearing things.

State highway workers had beamed a message through a “sound cannon,” a high-tech gizmo that allows communication over long distances under noisy conditions.

Researchers developed it for the U.S. military to warn strangers getting too close to ships. Since then, it’s been used to protect convoys in Iraq, warn pirates on the high seas to go away and disperse civilian demonstrators in New York and Pittsburgh.

And last year, a Missouri highway worker figured the unit could come in handy at highway work zones, as a way to warn distracted motorists to slow down and move over.

So he contacted the manufacturer, which lent the Missouri Department of Transportation several of the long range acoustic devices, or LRADs, for testing.

Researchers wheeled the units out on department vehicles on Interstate 435 in the Northland and on Interstate 70 near Columbia in November.

“The whole idea is to prevent crashes into our mobile work zones,” said Chris Redline, assistant Kansas City district engineer with the department.

Although the project has been shelved for now, MoDOT officials remain interested in how the devices could protect highway workers. They are waiting on results of a $49,000 University of Missouri study, paid for by federal planning and research funds, that are expected soon.

The device’s manufacturer also is interested. MoDOT apparently was the first to suggest using the devices on highways, a company spokesman said. Now, the company is considering marketing the unit to highway departments across the country.

One challenge will be overcoming complaints by people who oppose the device’s use, said E. Brian Harvey, a spokesman for LRAD Corp., the San Diego-based company that introduced the device after a terrorist attack on a U.S. Navy vessel in a Yemeni port killed 17 sailors in 2000.

About a dozen bloggers who recently heard about the MoDOT testing have lamented an Orwellian future of transmitted voices startling drivers inside their cars. And this month, lawmakers in Jefferson City questioned whether MoDOT had spent money on the devices without getting legislative approval. It hadn’t.

One thing is certain: The LRADs are startling at first glance.

The model mounted in the rear of MoDOT trucks resembled an orchestra’s timpani, tilted about 90 degrees to directly face drivers. When a vehicle came too close to the truck’s rear, drivers heard a high-pitched sound and the message “slow vehicles ahead.”

Researchers used sound levels within standards recommended by agencies such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, said Henry Brown, a University of Missouri traffic engineer.

The instrument, he added, appeared to perform as MoDOT officials had hoped, by prompting drivers to move over a lane. The average merging distance with the LRAD was greater from the truck than the average distance without it, he said.

Highway officials had pondered a pilot program this spring, but they postponed it because the devices were unavailable, said Holly Dentner, MoDOT spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, MoDOT officials continue to adopt ways to better protect workers. They have installed cushioning devices and elaborate lighting systems on trucks, for example.

Over the last two years, motorists have hit slow-moving MoDOT crews 44 times, Dentner said.

Sixteen MoDOT employees have died on the job since 2000. That includes Clifton Scott, a Kansas City-area motorist assist employee killed by a drunken driver on Interstate 70 in 2012.

A former Kansas City area MoDOT striping crew supervisor came up with the LRAD idea, Redline said.

“He was seeing too many close calls involving too many distracted drivers,” he said. That employee contacted LRAD Corp.

The possible use of the device in Missouri should not alarm drivers, said Harvey of LRAD.

“We saw all the social media postings and we were surprised about how it was being perceived,” he said.

“The reality is that these are high-powered speakers which are used predominately as a communications tool.”

One Columbia resident, however, is wary about encountering an LRAD on a Missouri highway.

Karen Piper, an English professor at the University of Missouri, served as a visiting faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University in 2009, preparing a book about global water policies. That September she observed demonstrations during the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh.

The police deployed an LRAD to communicate with and disperse demonstrators.

“I didn’t even know it existed,” Piper said. The sound it transmitted, she said, “was a high screeching siren-like sound, very loud and painful.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania sued the city of Pittsburgh over the unit’s use, maintaining that Piper had suffered permanent hearing loss, nausea, pain and disorientation.

Piper received a $72,000 settlement in 2012. She continues to suffer hearing loss in one ear that makes it difficult for her to distinguish some consonants, she said. She wonders whether drivers one day could suffer injuries similar to hers.

“I don’t think they should use it at all,” Piper said.

“It has that siren built into it, and maybe people will be tempted to use it. And that’s dangerous.”

Printer Friendly Page Send this Story to a Friend Create a PDF from the article


Other articles
2014/7/28 10:20:00 - Trenton City Council Preview Of Tonight's Meeting; Beer Sales Continue To Be Controversial At Fair
2014/7/28 10:18:57 - Trenton Man Injured In Accident Near Jamesport
2014/7/28 10:16:47 - Pursuit In Sullivan And Putnam Counties Ends In Injury Accident
2014/7/28 10:13:41 - Garden Club Seeks Fair Entries
2014/7/28 10:11:35 - Traffic Accident Kills Elderly St. Joseph Man
2014/7/28 9:58:47 - Annual Jameson Picnic To Be Held August 7th Through 9th
2014/7/28 9:55:15 - Tire Collection To Be Held August 9th In Chillicothe
2014/7/28 9:51:41 - Meadville Man Injured In Motorcycle Accident
2014/7/28 9:49:29 - Princeton School Board Releases Executive Session Report
2014/7/28 9:46:23 - Dollar Tree To Buy Family Dollar For $8.5 Billion
2014/7/28 9:39:39 - Missouri "Sales Tax" Holiday This Weekend
2014/7/28 5:52:19 - Motorcycle Accident Injures One; Driver Accused Of DWI
2014/7/28 4:43:45 - Missouri Congressional Hopefuls Run On Low Budgets
2014/7/28 4:39:04 - One Killed In Shooting At University City Alumni Picnic
2014/7/28 4:30:00 - First In Line: Woman Waits Days To See President Obama Speak
2014/7/28 4:20:00 - Bar Catches Heat For Sign Insensitive To Women
2014/7/28 4:14:32 - Teen Arrested After Gas Station Clerk Pulls Gun
2014/7/28 4:11:10 - Farmers Brace For High Corn Yields, Lower Prices
2014/7/28 4:05:48 - 4-Year-Old Abducted From Missouri Found In Virginia
2014/7/25 6:26:53 - Motorcycle Accident Injures Cameron Resident Near Mooresville
2014/7/25 4:42:55 - Child Abuse Charges Include Snakes, Lizards And Alligators
2014/7/25 4:40:00 - Search Warrant Leads To Two Meth Suspects
2014/7/25 4:30:00 - 3 Convicted In $17 Million Drug Conspiracy
2014/7/25 4:26:15 - Woman Ticketed After Stopping To Help Stranded Ducklings
2014/7/25 4:22:33 - 10-Month-Old Baby Dead After Being Left In Hot Car
2014/7/25 4:15:23 - Husband Documents Wife's Reasons For Rejecting Sex, Sends To Her Work Email
2014/7/25 4:07:44 - Family Feud Sparks Revolt At Grocery Store Chain
2014/7/25 4:01:28 - Livingston County Sheriff Investigation Report
2014/7/24 11:03:48 - Two Spickard Residents Arrested On Drug Charges
2014/7/24 10:51:09 - Fire Damages Trenton Residence This Morning



Bookmark this article at these sites

                   

Listen to KTTN-FM