Monday 8th February 2016
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Did you know that plans are afoot to remove central dotted white lines from busy roads around the country? This is because new research has indicated that roads without white line markings are reducing the average speed of vehicles by 13%.  This decrease in speed is attributed to drivers feeling less certain and so they drive at slower speeds.

Removal of white central lines

Trials have been going on for some time.  Wiltshire Country Council stopped repainting central white lines when roads were resurfaced between 1997 and 2002.  Three A roads in London, the A22 and A23 in south London and the A100 in central London have been re-surfaced and the central white lines removed in 2014 as a trial.  At present there are no plans to re-instate them.   Transport for London (TFL) which manages major roads across London said that there has been a “statistically significant reduction in vehicle speeds” due to the removal of the lines.   In Norfolk trials were held in rural villages and are being extended into more built up areas.   A representative of Norfolk County Council has said that they believe the removal of the white lines influences driver behaviour so they slow down.

The theory is that the absence of white lines makes drivers feel that they no longer have their own lane and so they tend to be more cautious and concentrate better.   Although the trials are believed to have been successful there are no plans yet to have a significant number of white line removals.  Indicating a note of caution Alan Bristow, Director of Road Space Management at TFL said that the London trials were still being “monitored closely to understand the longer-term effects”.  Which, presumably, means TFL aren’t 100% sure of the long term value of the scheme yet.

Reactions to the removal of the 100 year old central white lines has been mixed so far. RoadPeace, the road safety charity are fully behind the scheme and they see it as a way of “self enforcing” speed reduction.  However, several motoring groups feel that the new policy is significantly flawed.   Brake, the road safety charity don’t agree with RoadPeace at all.  Their Campaigns Director said:  “While crashes at lower speeds can mean fewer deaths and serious injuries, this data only seems to look at a possible reduction in average speed and not the number and nature of any collisions,” he said. “With or without white lines, drivers should always drive to the conditions of the road and well within the speed limit.”

The AA say that the central white lines on the road can be “enormously cost effective in saving lives” when the ground is wet at night.  The President of the AA, Edmund King said that people told him the idea is “absurd, barmy and crazy”.   I have to say I totally agree with his points.  King states that new cars fitted with lane departure systems require white lines, a very valid point.   The white lane markings make newly qualified drivers feel much more secure on big A roads and motorways.

This idea, like the idea of removing traffic lights comes from Dutch engineer Hans Monderman who came up with this concept of “shared space” where there are no traffic lights, lane markings or even kerbs.  King believes that this idea can work in small and medieval Dutch villages that have little traffic but he seriously doubts the effectiveness and safetyness of the scheme on major roads.   An interesting fact from Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists is that most deaths in the UK occur on rural single carriageways.  This fact hardly endorses the idea of single space does it? Greig is also an advocate of the white lines and he re-iterates King’s point about connected cars needing to be able to read the road.  It seems to me that the councils and other transport authorities are not taking a very long term view on this subject.  Will there be a U-turn on this before too long?