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Crafty Markings Could Slow Speeders

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

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Optical illusions on highway pavement may soon trick motorists into slowing down, Florida transportation officials are hoping.

The illusion uses optical speed bars—thermoplastic tape lines gradually spaced closer together on the road—to make drivers feel like they are going faster than they are, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The lines are 12 inches wide and 18 inches long.

Florida officials will trial the lines later this year or early next year on a curved stretch of road in Fort Lauderdale.

The project is reportedly still in its design phase, and officials have not determined how long the test will run.

optical speed bars 
Virginia Department of Transportation

Optical speed bars on pavement are designed to make drivers think they are driving faster than they are. Virginia has used both designs pictured. Florida plans to try out the design at left on a curved stretch of road in Fort Lauderdale.

"As is the case with all these types of pilot programs, we want to see test cases that are well-conceived and have a high probability of mitigating or improving the problem," Scott Brunner, Broward County Traffic Engineer, told the Sun-Sentinel.

The Fort Lauderdale road was chosen because residents have complained about dangerous speeding and aggressive driving along the stretch, including vehicles crashing into houses and yards.

A similar technique was tested several years ago at Interstates 4 and 95 near Daytona Beach, FL, with "not much of a difference seen," Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Olson told the newspaper.

FHWA and Other Studies

Optical speed bars are usually used in known accident areas or areas that require a significant reduction in traffic speed, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

"As spacing between the bars gradually narrows, drivers sense they have increased speed and will slow down to keep the 4-bar/sec spacing," FHWA says.

Studies in New York, Mississippi and Texas have shown that transverse pavement markings can effectively reduce mean speeds, but their long-term effectiveness is unknown.

A 2007 study by the Virginia Department of Transportation found that optical speed bars decreased speed from one to three miles per hour when placed on a short, two-lane section of hazardous roadway and decreased speed from three to 10 mph when installed across lanes on a major, four-lane undivided highway.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has also experimented with a pavement marking design to alert motorists that they are approaching a curve. Called the "PennDOT Curve Advance Marking," the treatment involves two transverse bars, a SLOW legend, and an arrow indicating the direction of the upcoming curve.


Tagged categories: Department of Transportation (DOT); Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Roads/Highways; Striping

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