With winter upon us, we have fewer daylight hours to savor. The growing darkness during the morning and evening hours means lower visibility on the roads and highways during commute times. Since death due to a traffic accident is more likely to occur in non-daylight hours, it is important to be safe on the road in the winter.
One feature we rely on while driving in the dark is the reflective lane-striping that mark the center and sides of the road. These features are especially important in rural areas where fewer streetlights are used. A recent article in the Washington Post examines whether or not these markings are less effective than preventing accidents than in the past.
The article states that part of the problem with the reflective striping could be that Americans are getting older. Therefore, with our aging eyes, we can't see the lines as well. However, as infrastructure ages, road markings can deteriorate. Further, following the Great Recession of 2007 and 2008, state and local governments cut back spending on road repairs.
What causes the stripe to reflect?
Calling the strips "reflective" is a misnomer. The markings are "retroreflective" because they are designed to reflect the light directly back at the driver. Tiny glass beads just millimeters thick are used to help give the striping their shine.
Right now, there is no government standard for how bright the markings should be, but a rule may be implemented soon. In the south, cat eyes are more often used to illuminate road markings in conjunction with reflective paint. Cat eyes are the raised spherical strips used to reflect road markings. They are more commonly utilized in the south because it snows less and will not interfere with a snowplow on the road.
How to maintain safer roadways
Driving at night increases your risk of being involved in a car accident, but that doesn't mean there are not ways to increase your visibility on the road. First, check to make sure headlights are clear and in good working order. Foggy or clouded headlights can be cleaned using simple products from auto parts stores.
Second, be sure to change your wiper blades every six months. Blades can be worn down by the elements quickly, so it is important to keep a fresh pair on your vehicle for maximum visibility. Third, you should repair any chips or cracks in your windshield. These repairs can be more expensive, but coverage may be available through your auto insurance policy.
Reflective striping on roadways is just one way we stay safe on the road. Other factors including weather, driver fatigue and road conditions can play a factor in car accidents. If you are involved in an accident, you may be able to seek personal injury compensation beyond what is provided to you in an insurance policy.