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Pavement Markings: Why Those Little White Lines Are a Big Deal

I recently purchased a remarkable gadget: a pavement-marking quality detector system. As I drive, it informs me whether the lane markings are in good shape—green for yes, orange for no. So, what’s the big deal? I can see where the edge of the road is. Do I really need markings to tell me to stay in my lane? Does it really matter if those markings are faded, or even there?

Well, that pavement-marking detector is actually the lane departure warning system in my new car. A camera mounted in front of the rearview mirror watches the road, trying to find traffic lane markings. When it can, it activates the safety system that gently steers me back into my lane, in the event I hypothetically dropped candy in my lap. 

It’s constantly assessing the conditions, and I’ve found myself much more invested in road markings than ever before, often disgusted at long orange stretches of road that force me to give driving my full attention. (I’m joking, always give the road your undivided attention.)

Over the last century, pavement markings have undoubtedly prevented many accidents and saved countless lives. I certainly get a little twitchy when driving on a freshly resurfaced road that hasn’t yet been painted. It feels a little like Kramer’s wide-highway lanes from Seinfeld, but with more oncoming traffic.

Of course, pavement markings have always been about safety. The first emergence of painted center lines on modern roadways was in the 1910s, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that standards were first published. There are some accounts of ancient roads with white rocks along the center line, but there is some dispute as to whether this was functional or decorative.

I often hear people dismissing assistive technologies in modern vehicles, arguing that they encourage distracted driving and decrease road safety. Luckily, the data paints a different picture. Continue reading James' blog post now to learn more. 


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