End of the line for road markings? Removing white lines ‘slows down drivers’, research finds

Removing the white lines from the centre of roads introduces a ‘sense of uncertainty’ that makes motorists drive more cautiously, a London-based pilot scheme has shown.

The traditional white line in the middle of the road could be a thing of the past if the expansion of a pilot scheme continues.

Transport chiefs are considering an expansion of trial scheme to remove road markings such as the central white line from busy roads. The white lines were left off resurfaced A-roads in London in order to introduce ‘a sense of uncertainty’ that would make motorists drive more cautiously.

Research has shown that removal of the central white line, which has been a feature of British roads since the end of the Great War, slows the average speed of vehicles by up to 13%.

A number of other ‘shared space’ initiatives to blur the lines between roads and space intended for pedestrians have shown a similar, somewhat surprising, reduction in speeds and in frequency of accidents.

Alan Bristow, director of road space management at Transport for London, told The Times: “The central road markings from some sections of roads were not reinstated after resurfacing.

“The purpose of this was to see if there would be a reduction in vehicle speeds leading to safety benefits. The results were positive and the trial sites are [being] monitored to understand the longer term effects of their introduction.”

Road safety charity Roadpeace has issued a statement in support of the move, saying that ‘self-enforcing’ schemes like this are the best way to reduce speeding in the face of reducing police budgets.

But George Lee, chief executive of trade association The Road Safety Markings Association, stressed that the proven safety benefits of road markings should not be overlooked.

“We can all only hope that for the sake of innocent road users it does not turn out to be fatally flawed,” he said.

“There is little or no proof that removing road markings makes roads safer or that drivers confused by a lack of clear guidance are somehow safer drivers.”

His words were echoed by Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA. “Without exaggeration it is true to say that a simple pot of paint can save lives,” he said.

“In particular, highly visible markings at the edge and centre of the road that can be seen on a wet night are enormously cost-effective in saving lives.”

Plans are being made to introduce a similar scheme in north Norfolk, not far from the Queen’s Sandringham estate, which would see lines removed on narrower roads. There have also been experiments with road marking removal in parts of Wiltshire and Derbyshire.

2016-02-03T22:51:42+00:003 February 2016|
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