Can Road and Line Markings Save Lives?

Posted 26th October 2022

Can Road and Line Markings Save Lives?

When it comes to road safety, it’s often the simplest solutions which are the most effective. Traffic safety has been studied as a science for more than 75 years, with the prevention of both serious and minor accidents the major aim of modern road design. In this, it is difficult to exaggerate the role of road and line markings in keeping people safe on the roads.

There has been a recent campaign from the residents of Fradley to improve line markings on an A38 junction after a series of accidents and near-misses. Residents contend that a lack of clarity over the fact that the Wood End Lane carriageway is a two-way thoroughfare has led drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road, creating the risk of head-on collisions and accidents where motorists realise their mistake and need to take emergency evasive action.

This campaign has got us thinking again about the role road markings play on our roads to protect motorists. Across the globe, road traffic accidents are considered one of our most critical public health and injury-prevention problems, and interventions and regulations are continually evolving in order to minimise the risk of injury and loss of life.

Road safety is generally determined by three main factors. These are:

The driver: Issues such as driver error, reckless driving, sudden illness and tiredness can all lead to road accidents.

The vehicle: The good functioning of motor vehicles is important to road safety, with failures in tire grip, brakes, steering and throttle all potentially catastrophic.

The road: Poor signage, unclear markings and inadequate lighting can be partly or fully responsible for casualties on the road.


In the UK, we are all familiar with measures and interventions designed to mitigate or compensate for these factors. The Highway Code instructs drivers and other road users on how to operate their vehicles with the utmost safety, and is continually updated to reflect new technologies and findings. This is supported by legal structures and government-led campaigns to reduce incidents of dangerous driving, whether it’s reminding people not to drive when they are tired through awareness adverts, or late-night police patrols to discourage drink-driving.

To increase vehicle safety, annual MOT tests ensure that cars and motorbikes meet the minimum standards of safety and roadworthiness required by law. These include dozens of tests focusing on areas such as the braking system, lights, tires, exhaust and mirrors.

The final piece of the puzzle is the roads themselves. Across the country, thousands of people are engaged daily in the design, construction and maintenance of our roads, with carefully defined regulations and continuing research guiding our efforts in creating the safest roads possible.

In these efforts, road markings are without a doubt one of the most important threads of communication we use in the language of our roads.


How do road markings save lives?

Road markings have been in use since 1918, first appearing in the UK 32 years after the first motorcar was invented. By 1926, they were recognised as a formal road safety protocol and over the next 40 years, the use of road markings evolved, with yellow, dashed and more complex instructions developing as the needs of road users became more apparent. Over the years, studies have found that these road markings have a positive impact on driver behaviour and that the good maintenance of road markings improves road safety.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence for the importance of road markings in the protection of road users is that, like the residents of Fradley, people up and down the country have found that the lack of road markings (or confusion caused by their fading or misapplication) have created accident blackspots, leading to local campaigning for investment to improve road standards.

In fact, the link is so well established that if a local highways authority fails to maintain clear and visible road markings, and someone suffers an accident, in certain situations they will have the legal recourse to pursue a case against them to recover the costs they have incurred. Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 the road must be reasonably safe to its users, and if road markings (or lack thereof) have caused an accident then the highway authority is not considered to have carried out its duty to the proper standard.

The kinds of accidents that are most likely to occur when road markings are missing, insufficient or not properly maintained are road users failing to come to a stop when they should. Improperly marked junctions can also cause collisions if it is not clear there is a turn in the road, and pedestrians are also at risk if drivers aren’t properly informed of where to stop or slow down.

Research in Australia that investigated the higher incidence of crashes at night (with a death rate estimated to be between three to four times higher than during the day) discovered that inadequate road markings which aren’t clearly visible in poor lighting conditions also contribute to accidents. This demonstrates that road markings influence driver behaviour to such an extent that, if their degradation or poor application makes them hard to see at night, accidents increase.

This is why, at Hi-Way Services, we take our role in the maintenance of the UK’s roads so seriously and are proud of the work we do making our highways safer for everyone. If you need to get in touch to discuss how we can help you, contact us today.


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