Is the end in sight for central road markings?

They’ve been a feature on our roads for almost 100 years but a new trial could spell the end of the central white line on many UK roads.

In a bid to make drivers slow down, highways chiefs are trialling the removal of centrelines from some slower UK roads.

The proposals come following a positive test in London where three roads had their white lines removed.  In 2014, Transport for London (TfL) erased the centrelines on two roads in Croydon and another in Haringey.

Results showed drivers reduced their speeds on these unmarked roads by up to 13%.

In their report about the test, TfL addressed why drivers travel faster on roads with central lines. They wrote:  “Getting into the minds of drivers is not easy. A theory is that centre lines and hatching can provide a psycological sense of confidence to drivers that no vehicles will encroach on ‘their’ side of the road.

“There can also be a tendency for some drivers to position their vehicles close to a white line regardless of traffic conditions, believing it is their ‘right’ to be in this position.”

Slowing down

They went on to say there was a “statistically significant reduction in vehicle speeds as a result of removing central markings on the carriageway” and suggested “centreline removal introduces an element of uncertainty which is reflected in lower speeds”.

However, not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

Ellie Bromilow was concerned for drivers’ safety in bad weather. She posted on Facebook: “What about when it’s foggy? The white lines make the curvature of the road more visible. Stupid idea.”

While Des Powell said the plan “transcends stupidity”.  He wrote: “Whoever invented cats eyes and lines have saved countless lives and as a driver for many years I place a high value on them.”

As well as London, trials have taken place in Wiltshire and Derby and soon north Norfolk could be following suit with plans being drawn up.

However, it’s not just the British public who are concerned about the scheme. Paul Watters, head of roads and transport policy at the AA, said authorities should be looking to increase road markings, rather than decrease them.

“Far from talking their use down we should be talking it up,” he said. “They have a vital role in keeping road users safe.

“Of course there should be places where they can be dispensed with and this has largely worked, but unlike road signs, markings are already less intrusive but still help road users.”

Some Facebook users have also voiced worries about the impact line removal could have on safety technology featured in many modern cars.

Facebook user Chris Murgatroyd said: “I have a lane departure warning system in my car. What use would that be then?”

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