Road Safety News

End of the road for white lines?

Wednesday 3rd February 2016

White lines could be removed from busy roads across the country in an attempt to decrease the speed of motorists (Telegraph).

The Telegraph reports that highway chiefs have concluded that unmarked roads introduce a sense of uncertainty that prompts motorists to drive more cautiously, especially when faced with oncoming traffic.

In recent months, Transport for London (TfL) has removed the lines on parts of the A22 and A23 in south London and the A100 in central London. TfL has told The Times that this may now be expanded to other roads.

There are also plans to pilot the scheme in north Norfolk while trials have taken place in parts of Wiltshire and Derby.

The Telegraph report points to research which shows removing the central white line, a feature of British roads for almost 100 years, can reduce the average speed of a vehicle by 13%.

Road Safety GB has suggested the idea be treated with caution, saying that different solutions are required for different situations.

Iain Temperton, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: "There is no single solution to highway design.

"Every solution must be based upon evidence and current best practice. While on some occasions that might involve the removal of markings or street furniture there will be other situations where this would exacerbate the problem. There is no one answer to casualty reduction."

Commenting on TfL’s decision to remove white lines from busy roads, Nicholas Lyes, RAC public affairs manager, said: “There may be some areas where there's a benefit but a lot where the disadvantages outweigh any potential benefits.

“And their removal would also likely lead to an increased ‘fear factor’ of driving and accidents for the majority of motorists who take confidence from clear road markings.

“It feels instinctive that white line road markings an essential feature keeping our roads safe and lanes clearly defined in both daylight and the hours of darkness.

“And we must not forget the development of cat’s eyes in the 1930s has been universally heralded as one of the greatest road safety improvements of all time used all over the world.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) has come out strongly against the idea, referring to it as "misplaced, misleading and ... fatally flawed".
George Lee, chief executive of the RSMA, said: "There is little or no proof that removing road markings makes roads safer or that drivers confused by a lack of clear guidance are somehow safer drivers."


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Apart from White Lines I often wonder if there has ever been shown a benefit to the many painted signs saying 'SLOW' or its Gaelic equivalent. I would rather see these removed.
Robert Bolt, St Albans

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

Well said Jules,
Obsession with a number is infuriating. I find myself looking at the speedo more than the road which is insane. In an interview on this scheme on the BBC, the representative stated that reducing the traffic speed decreased journey times, in my experience of managed motorways and physics I know this to be nonsense. Road engineers should be allowing traffic to move and stop increasing the congestion on our roads. Is this policy in direct correlation with the increasing average age of drivers and population as a whole and therefore decreased reaction times and more conservative and punitive attitudes that come with age I wonder?
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

Agree (6) | Disagree (11)

On a less frivolous note, I have noticed that after c/way resurfacing and pending renewal of the white lines, the appearance of the road ahead can be disconcerting enough to generate a sense of uncertainty and even vulnerability which should heighten one's senses and awareness, so I can see where they're coming from with this. On the other hand, any Council thinking of trying this will also be aware of the implications of Road Death Investigation Manual, should a fatal collsion subsequently occur.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

Isn't this happening by stealth anyway? The roads on which I travel often have markings in a dreadful state of disrepair. They'll be telling us next that potholes are a good idea, because they achieve an x% reduction in speed on any given road.
David, Suffolk

Agree (12) | Disagree (1)

A lot of roads have either 'STOP' lines or 'Give Way' markings which mark the 'end of the road'. If indeed it is soon to be the 'end of the road for white lines', how will the 'end of the road' be marked in the future, without the white lines to mark it with?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

Rod, to clarify my statement lane departure warning is also operational on single carriageways when the centre line is crossed. One would argue this is the most important element of it's use - reducing the chance of a head-on collision.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)


I don't think that anyone is proposing removing lane markings. It seems to be real storm in a teacup. I am waiting for someone to mention "elf and safety" and straight bananas. I could be wrong, I suspect that this is a perfect example of an original article by a misinformed journalist that then creates speculation and distraction from the reality that we all have to deal with.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

I notice there is already a question submitted to today's forum about autonomous vehicle's reliance on white lines? I believe lane departure warning systems use the lines as a cue already so this policy could be to the detriment of these systems.

Surely this is the kind of policy that needs a national, joined-up steer to help developers of this kind of technology as well as providing consistency for drivers?
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

With regard to the Telegraph's reference to "Highway Chiefs" they go on to state that this is primarily a TfL initative that is also under consideration in Wiltshire, Norfolk and Derby. Presumably it is the Heads of Highways for those authorities that are being referred to?
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Removing white lines is utter madness. I have no doubt that average speeds would reduce - but it is mistakes that cause crashes not speed.

Road crash inspectors don't obsess about speed. Most crashes have a combination of causes - with driver error amongst the commonest. So removing visual clues will lead to more mistakes - especially in poor visibility, when cars will drift into a ditch - or towards oncoming traffic - and maybe an over-sharp correction.

Some so-called "road safety" engineers acquire some curious ideas. How about rightwards deflection at a mini-roundabout - yes rightwards!
Jules, Kent

Agree (12) | Disagree (7)

I for one will not be driving in times of fog and darkness, and how many times have we mentioned eye sight tests for drivers, and what about foreign drivers?
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

Wasn’t this a story covered by RSGB in August 2014 on the benefits of removing central white lines on some single carriageway roads. See

The roads actually “trialled” by TfL seem to be the same as in the original story. The TfL report can be seen at

I note that the original RSGB article showed a picture of the actual single carriageway trialled whereas The Telegraph and new RSGB article in their pictures seem to be implying that it is dashed white lines between lanes on motorways that are under consideration for removal!

And exactly who are these “highway chiefs”, now that’s a nice unspecific term.

Have TfL actually made any announcements other than their 2014 report?

Sounds to me like a Telegraph journalist conjuring up a motoring story by taking a report on the benefits of central white line removal on some selected roads and then blowing it out of all proportion by showing pictures of motorways and asking road groups what they think of removing all white lines. Is it the silly season?
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (21) | Disagree (2)