Study: Thermoplastic Markings Decrease Crashes
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) found in a study that lane-departure crashes were reduced by 13% after rural roads were striped with long-life lane markings.
NCDOT reports in its study that the newer thermoplastic lane markings are “more durable and better at reflecting headlights, due to embedded glass beads in the plastic paint.” The material was applied to 400 miles of rural, two-lane roads across North Carolina between 2014 and 2017.
“Safety is our top priority, and we are continuously evaluating new initiatives that will result in fewer crashes and traffic deaths,” NCDOT Secretary Eric Boyette said in a press release. “I’m proud of my team. It’s quite a distinction for their efforts to be recognized by the Roadway Safety Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration.”
The newer material, according to NCDOT, is higher-quality and helps drivers better navigate the roads and curves, particularly at night or in the rain. To improve visibility, the department also applied 6-inch-wide lane markings in some locations, instead of the standard 4 inches.
NCDOT received the 2021 National Roadway Safety Award from The Federal Highway Administration and the Roadway Safety Foundation last week for its study.
While NCDOT reports that the long-life pavement markings are 40% more expensive than traditional paint, they last between five and seven years as opposed to the average two-year cycle. The department spent $64 million on the thermoplastic markings between 2015 and 2019, and State Traffic Engineer Kevin Lacey says the department will continue to invest in these markings.
Recent Road Safety and Studies
In 2019, London painted its first 3D “zebra crossing” in efforts to improve road safety. The striped crossing is made to appear to be floating above the road, creating an optical illusion on both sides that is visible to oncoming drivers, with the aim of getting motorists to slow down.
Although this type of trial was new to Britain at the time, many other countries had already begun painting 3D pedestrian crossing markers. As early as 2008, road safety chiefs in China replaced their traditional crosswalks with colorful, bright images of rectangular logs.
“Trials of a similar scheme in New Delhi, India, are reported to show that average speeds where it was employed had dropped by as much as 40%, from 30 mph to 20 mph,” reported Westminster Council at the time.
A report released in March by Smart Growth America found that the number of pedestrians struck and killed by drivers nationwide over the last decade has increased 45%, with the four more recent years on record (2016-19) being the most-deadly for pedestrian deaths since 1990.
Over the course of the decade, the 2021 Dangerous by Design report found that 53,435 people were hit and killed by drivers. In 2019, there were 6,237 pedestrian fatalities alone, a number equivalent to 17 fatalities per day.
The study found that most pedestrian fatalities take place on local roads, at night and away from intersections, suggesting the need for safer road crossings and increased efforts to make pedestrians and vehicles more visible. Unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding, distracted and drowsy driving, were reported in nearly half of traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2018.