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Pavement markings make driving easier and safer

When spring comes, we can’t wait until NYS DOT re-paints the lines in the road. It makes driving so much easier. Pavement markings are used to guide and regulate traffic. They can improve the safety of a highway and inform the driver without diverting attention away from the roadway.

Pavement markings must be re-applied as needed to maintain good visibility. Failure to do so can result in a liability risk to the municipality. The effectiveness of markings decreases as they wear, especially at night.

Pavement markings, like any other traffic control device, must be standardized so drivers clearly understand the intent. Colors (mostly white and yellow) are standardized to agree with the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. White is used to separate lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, including turn lanes and bicycle lanes. White is also used to delineate pavement edge lines and paved shoulder areas to the right of traffic, stop lines at intersections, crosswalks, and parking stalls.

Yellow is used for center lines and center islands separating traffic moving in opposite directions on two-way roads, edge lines on the left side of one-way roads and next to the median on divided highways. A single solid yellow line is not allowed in the US to mark no passing zones but is allowed in at least parts of Canada, including the Province of Quebec, on narrow roads with low traffic counts. Yellow is also used for two-way left turn lanes in both the US and Canada.

Most if not all state highways have pavement markings. But, some county highways and most town roads do not. The MUTCD requires center line and edge line pavement markings on paved urban arterials and collector roads 20 feet or more in width with an average daily traffic of 6,000 or more. They are also required on paved roads with more than two lanes.

Center line pavement markings are recommended (not required) on paved urban arterials and collectors 20 feet or more in width with an average daily traffic of 4,000 or more. They are also recommended on paved rural arterials and collectors 18 feet or more in width with an ADT of 3,000. Edge line markings are recommended on paved rural arterials and collectors 20 feet or more in width with an ADT of 3,000 or more.

Center line pavement markings are not recommended on paved roads less than 16 feet in width without an engineering study due to the possibility of traffic encroaching in the opposite lane.

Stop and yield lines are used to show drivers where they should stop or yield their vehicles. They are especially useful when a stop or yield sign cannot be placed near where traffic should stop. And, before you ask, there is no requirement to stop at the “stop sign.” A stop sign is only used to assign right of way and can be as far from an intersection as 50 feet.

I want to credit Cornell Local Roads Program for providing most of the information in this article in their “Traffic Sign Handbook for Local Roads.”

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