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UPDATE: RSMA annual report shows nearly a third of UK's road markings are substandard

According to the LifeLines Report, an assessment of more than 2,400km (1,500 miles) of the UK’s road network, nearly a third of the length of the country’s single-carriageway ‘A’ roads have white lines that are so worn out that they do not meet recognized standards. The report released by the Road Safety Marking Association (RSMA) says that the country’s most dangerous roads have the most worn-out center-line markings of all. Two-thirds of all UK road deaths and serious injuries are on rural A roads. Yet, of more than 60 single-carriageway A roads surveyed, totaling more than 1,600km (1,000 miles), on average 14% of road markings are completely worn out, while a further 15% fall into the ‘amber’ zone and should immediately be scheduled for replacement. Just 29% of lines reach the acceptable level of visibility.

The quality of markings on major dual-carriageway A-roads is in line with those on motorways. Of the 756km (470 miles) of dual A roads and motorways surveyed, 20% fall below the minimum specifiable standard and should be scheduled for replacement, while 8% have center line markings so worn that they are barely visible. A high proportion of markings – 39% dual carriageways and 38% motorways – make the recommended rating used by the industry, but there has been a significant drop in the quality since 2008, at which time 69% of markings on duals reached this grade and 49% on motorways. Road markings are measured on their retroreflectivity. A rating of 150mcd (millicandelas) is the level recommended by the industry, with road markings materials available that ensure markings remain clearly visible even at night in wet conditions. Under a Highways Agency (HA) standard, if the quality of markings falls below 100mcd, they should be scheduled for replacement – and if the quality rates below 80mcd they must be replaced immediately.

The RSMA is concerned that HA ratings for road markings have never been formally adopted by Local Authorities, leading to inconsistent maintenance standards on UK roads and the potential for the significant maintenance shortfalls identified in the report. “These motorways and strategic A-roads are managed by the Highways Agency (HA), which has clearly specified standards for the quality of road markings,” commented George Lee, the RSMA’s national director. “Two years ago, just 2% of our major road network had markings that rated virtually non-existent. This figure has risen at an alarming rate, and now, nearly 10% of the center lines our trade routes are dangerously worn. It is the government’s role to provide well-researched and informed guidance for local highways authorities when it comes to specifying safety measures. I believe that this year’s report presents evidence of sufficient public concern to merit an inquiry by Parliament’s Transport Select Committee – and that’s something we will seek.”

A Highways Agency spokesperson got in touch with TrafficTechnologyToday.com yesterday with a response: “RSMA have stated that our specifications (from the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges) say that any markings which fall below 80mCd/m2/lux must be immediately replaced; that's not true, it's only in very specific circumstances (e.g. intersections or unlit roads) that they are considered to be a Category 1 defect, and treated urgently.”

March 15, 2011

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