Everything You Need to Know About Pavement Markers

Written by Posted On Monday, 02 November 2015 03:54

What are they?
Pavement markers function as a safety device on most roads. These small, often reflective devices are usually placed along the lines that separate the lanes of the road. They are made with several different materials including ceramic, plastic, thermoplastic paint and sometimes even metal. Many of the markers have been created to have a reflective strip embedded in them. 

Why do we need them?
We see these pavement markers on the road each and every day, but do we really know what they are for? These markers have a plethora of uses, one of which being their reflective quality. Because the markers are reflective, it makes it much easier for drivers to see the lanes in dark areas at night. The reflective quality that the markers have is also used for snowplows in the winter; because the markers are clearly visible at very long distances and in undesirable weather conditions. Now, pavement markers serve a much larger purpose than just making lanes visible at night. Markers come in many colors, and each color has a specific meaning.

Focusing on the meanings of the different colored markers in North America, first, white. White markers are used to specify the lane boundaries closest to the right edge of the road, or the right shoulder. Next, Yellow markers are used to separate the lanes that are moving in opposite directions on the road, as well as the left side, or left shoulder of the road. Blue markers are much less common but have an important duty all the same. Blue is generally used to signify the location of a fire hydrant nearby. If there is a fire hydrant near the curb or the shoulder of the road, a blue marker will be placed in the center of the road. A green marker is a rare occurrence because of its extremely specific meaning. Green indicates that emergency vehicles will be able to open gates of gated communities whenever necessary.

Red markers mean that the area is closed to through traffic, however, this marker is not often used due to the fact that signs will usually be posted in the event that a road is closed. Now to make matters even more complicated, these colors can be used in various combinations to create even more meanings. For example, white or yellow on one side of the pavement marker, and red on the other side indicates that one direction (the white or yellow side) is the correct flow of traffic, while the other direction (the red side) means do not enter or wrong way. The colors of the markers and their meanings are not the same internationally, so be aware of this when travelling abroad.

The earliest known relative of the marker was known as the “Cat’s Eyes” invented in the United Kingdom during the 1930’s. Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd, was the first company founded in the road marker industry by a man known as Percy Shaw. It took nearly ten years for the concept of “road studs” to make its way to the United States. Originally, “Cat’s Eyes” were created by setting two reflective glass spheres into a rubber fitting, and placed into cast-iron molding. These devices were used quite often specifically in the United Kingdom. Another early adaptation is known as “Bott’s Dots”. These are much simpler in design, consisting of a single round piece of plastic or ceramic material which are glued down to the road. These work well in some areas, but are not suitable to be in locations where snowplows are present, because they will be peeled up by the shovel. Overall, the evolution of the modern day pavement marker is an interesting one, and has granted us the markers that we see and use on a daily basis.

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