Luminous white lines on roads can save lives and property and, although that paint costs more, the overall savings resulting from avoidance of accidents can be substantial.
This past week I was driving to a town about sixty miles away at five o’clock in the morning. The family dog had an early morning appointment for surgery. The weather was clear and the roads were dry. In other words, perfect driving conditions.
Most of the road was four-lane highway with a separation strip in the middle. Not as good as a divided highway, but wide, and with generous lane widths.
However, there were times when I couldn’t see where the white lane lines were going because of the headlights of the oncoming traffic. In case you’re wondering, my eyesight is fine and, despite the hour, I was fully awake and paying attention.
The trip reminded me of a problem that has been bothering me for some time.
Why don’t they use luminous white lines paint on our roads? I know the initial answer to my question because I once asked the City Attorney where I live that same question. His reply was that it was too expensive.
My trip this week was under almost perfect driving conditions. When winter finally comes, and the conditions are rain and, very often, snow, seeing the lane markers becomes impossible. Reflections off a wet surface in the rain, and slush covering the markings make staying in your lane a constant guess. And that’s at a speed limit of 65mph. No wonder my blood pressure is up! I’m driving on adrenalin.
Is this false economy? Absolutely. Does this false economy cause more accidents, injuries, property damage and deaths? Absolutely again.
In town, it’s almost worse. The traffic is heavier, and there are many more turning lanes, equally invisible. The only difference is the speed limit, which means fender-benders occur more often than deaths.
I’ve decided I am going to start a local, perhaps national, campaign to get municipal, state and federal authorities to wake up to this easily-fixable issue. I might also enlist the support of the insurance companies, since they will have less payouts for the same premiums. As we all know only too well, they are always looking for more ways to avoiding payouts.
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about the unsung heroes who paint straight (most of the time) lines on the roads, and how we all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude in keeping us way safer than we would otherwise be. I decided to call one of them and ask the question about luminous paint.
I called PK Contracting, the largest road line painting company in Michigan. I had used an article on them in my previous blog. Despite the fact that I was in no position to use their services, the official I spoke to was very helpful and informative. He told me that he knew of two major suppliers of “luminous” road paint, but that the paint in question was not actually luminous. It contained small glass beads that reflected light. He confirmed that the cost of this paint is almost twice the cost of regular white paint. That answered my basic question of why authorities do not use it.
He then told me something I had never heard before. On interstate highways, they cut a quarter-inch deep groove, the width of the white lines, in the center line and fill that groove with the “glass-bead” paint. He further explained that that stopped the snowplow scraping the paint off the roads in winter. What a great, and ingenious and simple, idea! I assume that since interstate highways are a federal responsibility, this trick is used across the country. It also explains why the standard white lines on most local and state roads degrade over the winter. At least in states that have snow.
So, I realized, the problem I encountered this week on my 5am trip comes down to money and a lack of forethought. Further consideration led me to the conclusion that there must be studies out there that track accidents and white line obscurity. I decided that finding those studies would be my next step in designing my campaign.
I will start with the paint suppliers, and report in future blogs as I build and implement this campaign to force authorities to use luminous paint on all roads.