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Be Wiser’s Guide To Road Markings

Tue, 16/05/2017
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Feeling boxed in by boxed junctions? Getting red faced about double red lines? You’re not alone. A survey by Citroen found that 37% of company car drivers who took an online risk assessment test scored as “high-risk” in the knowledge section – suggesting that over a third of experienced drivers are not familiar enough with the rules of the road, including road markings and signage. Meanwhile, 51% of learner drivers failed their theory test between July and September 2016.

While there are many road markings that we see every day and find easy to understand, there are some that we don’t come across very often, and others that we may not understand the meaning of despite seeing them every day. Road markings have been around since the painting of the first white line in 1918, with official guidelines on how and where they should be used coming into force in 1926. Yellow lines and waiting, loading and unloading restrictions arrived in the 1950s. But what other road markings might drivers be less familiar with or confused about?

What do double red lines mean?

Road users could be forgiven for not being familiar with some road markings. For example, those living outside of London may not be familiar with red lines. Red lines can be found on the red route. Roads on the red route are the most important roads in London, which make up only 5% of the city’s total road length but carry more than 30% of the traffic. Double red lines mean there is no stopping at any time, and a single red line means there is no stopping allowed during the period of time shown on nearby signs. Stopping on red lines can result in a penalty charge notice (PCN).

Why are there yellow lines on the kerb?

You may occasionally come across markings on the kerb rather than the road itself. Yellow marks on the kerb or at the edge of the carriageway mean that loading or unloading is prohibited. Double yellow lines mean no loading or unloading at any time, while single yellow lines mean no loading or unloading during certain times – check the nearby black and white sign for details. If the sign does not show any days, the restrictions are in force every day including Sundays and Bank Holidays. However, you can still stop to let passengers board or alight the vehicle.

What are box junctions?

Some busy junctions such as traffic light controlled crossroads feature criss-cross yellow lines painted on the intersection, and this is called a box junction. Drivers are not allowed to enter a box junction unless their exit is clear, meaning they can’t stop to queue on the yellow lines. This helps to keep the junction clear and keep the traffic flowing. Many box junctions have cameras and you could be fined around £100 if you are caught using the box junction incorrectly.

So why aren’t all crossroads box junctions? Box junctions tend to be the busiest intersections. At a normal crossroad with signals, you may occasionally find yourself blocking traffic because you are queuing to exit the junction. However, this is less of a problem in locations where the traffic is lighter and any congestion is cleared more quickly, therefore the yellow lines are not as necessary on these roads.

Ridiculous Road Markings

Not all road markings are sensible, however. A set of double yellow lines less than a metre long appeared on a road in Bristol in 2015, but surprisingly these are not the only contenders for the title of “shortest double yellow lines in England”. There are several examples of unnecessary double yellow lines in the country, including some squeezed between parking bays, where a car would never be able to fit, and several other examples located in Kent.

Other examples of seemingly silly - or just plain incorrect - road markings are these misspellings of the words North, Left, and Petrol, as well as this pedestrian crossing instructing walkers to look left but showing an arrow pointing right.

Do we need road markings?

With that in mind, are we sometimes better off without road markings? Prince Charles seems to think so, as his model village Poundbury in Dorset is completely free from signs and road markings. And Poundbury isn’t the only place in the UK where men armed with white paint are persona non grata.

In 2016, the government announced that the white lines in the middle of roads would be removed in some parts of the UK. Some people welcomed the change, believing that road users are safer when they are self-policing. It has been found that without the white lines, motorists hug the kerb more closely, reduce speeds by up to 13%, and are more cautious for fear of drifting too far towards the other side of the road. However, the AA believes road markings should be increased rather than reduced, and other road safety experts have pointed out that the lack of white lines could affect the anti-accident technology used in some vehicles.

Can you apply for road markings outside your house?

If you think that more road markings are just the thing to stop your pesky neighbours from parking in front of your driveway, you may be in luck. You may be able to apply for white lines, or “H” bar markings in front of access areas, such as off-road parking, driveways, and garages. However, there are restrictions on where these markings can be installed, and you may need to supply proof that your access is continually obstructed by vehicles. Contact your local council to find out if you are eligible to apply.

If you are disabled, or the carer of a disabled person, you may be able to apply for a parking space outside your home. This consists of a single white road marking around five metres long, and a sign. However, both disabled parking and “H” bar” markings are advisory only and cannot be enforced by the council or the police. See your local council website for more details.

If you need to brush up on your knowledge some more, there is a complete list of road markings and their meanings on the government website. Though there has been some debate about whether we need road markings, as long as they are here it is important that they are adhered to by all motorists, so that everyone can use the roads safely.

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